What a game of rugby league.
I won’t go into the first half performance from the referees, as I don’t want to blight what was such a fantastic game with the refereeing debacle, although their performance nearly robbed the Blues of what was one of the best second 40 minutes I’ve seen.
The game started at a frantic pace, and with the mental scars from their slow start in Perth, the Maroons came out of the blocks with a lot of intent, lead by Josh Papalli, who was just about the best forward on the ground. The Queensland side seem to dominating field position, and their forwards were winning the advantage line battle. They reaped the rewards from a great start with a deft grubber from the debutant Norman which bounced into the hands of the ever consistent Felise Kaufusi.
The game started to then be blighted with penalties, 12 in total, and I don’t think the stop start benefited either team. The Blues began to feel their way into the game however, and they were getting joy out wide with the long balls to centres, Trbojevic and Wighton. They’re middle units were seeing more success, and the introduction of Vaughan and Finucane provided the much needed punch within the pack. The momentum they were building capped off with a try from Vaughan, which was created by the great lead up play by Cook, who is becoming so dangerous inside the opposition 10 metre line.
The second half got underway and the constant sound of the whistle had quitened, possibly a quiet word at half time over how the game was being referred, or restricted.
The opening 15/20 minutes were where the Blues really showed their class. I thought, in terms of the packs, there wasn’t much separating the two. For the Blues, the introduction of Murray generated the ruck speed and Finucane continued to impress, playing very aggressively and getting through a mountain of work, and for the Maroons, Welch showed up well and I actually thought he deserved more minutes, and Josh McGuire continued to do what he has for all his Origin career, compete and work hard. Where I felt the difference lied was the legitimate X-Factor players NSW have at their disposal.
Where the Maroons looked to Munster, their main man and strike weapon as a go to, the NSW side had a host of strike players who could break the game open. As was in the first game, Cook and Tedesco showed why they’re viewed as two of the games very best players, with a dominant 20 minutes where they really hurt the Maroons down the middle.
Tedesco scored the first try in that second half, simply pinning his ears back and overpowering Chambers in the corner. He really stood up in a moment that his side needed him, and showed the leadership qualities that Brad Fittler had seen to hand him the vice captaincy.
Cook picked his moments well, and didn’t over play his hand by running too much. He was rewarded for his try that I think everyone watching thought had sealed the series, nevertheless it was a brilliant solo try from a player who continues to get better and better.
I’m guilty of saying at 20-8, with 20 minutes to go, I thought the NSW side were home and dry. True to their Queensland spirit however, the Maroons pulled off a miraculous fightback. The first try went to Josh McGuire, who showed his determination to beat multiple defenders and get over the line. It came off the back of a great play from Corey Oates from a kick return, the resulting field position and scrambling NSW defence created the space for Mcguire.
Josh Papalli then levelled the scores with a try. A massive play from debutant Lowe, who was fantastic on debut, when he charged down a kick from Maloney. Similar to the try before, the field position they gained allowed DCE to play a beautiful short ball to Papalli who took advantage of a poor defensive read from Maloney.
With the scores level at 20-20, it appeared the game was headed for golden point. The Maroons charged up field and if it wasn’t for such a slow play of the ball by Mbye, I think Cherry-Evans may have opted for the field goal. He didn’t however, and the next set the Blues found space on the outside through a brilliant cut out ball from Pearce to Trbojevic, who passed to Ferguson and he beat the attempted tackle of Norman, and managed to find a ball back on the inside to Tedesco who turned the Maroons defence inside out and sealed the winner.
The second half especially, was one of the best 40 minutes of football I’ve seen in recent memory. The game flowed and the way the momentum shifted was typical of a high tempo Origin match. Both teams should be proud of themselves, there wasn’t much to seperate them at all, and how well matched both sides were culminated in such a fantastic game of football to watch.
I believe NSW just have a couple more players who really possess the ability to break a game open, their outside backs seemed to have a bit more strike and that’s what’s so important in Origin, as opportunities are so limited and you need your game breakers to take their chances.
I know we’ve only just finished this Origin series however I already can’t wait for the next and to see if the Blues can continue the dominance, similar to the Queensland side of the past 12 years, or can the Maroons regroup and wrestle back the shield?