All league fans know that NSW struggles to win at Suncorp. Add in the extra pressure of a series decider and the difficulty increases further. In the 40 years of Origin, NSW have only won the decider twice at Suncorp with the most recent success way back in 2005.
Queensland were disappointing in Game II, playing what coach Wayne Bennett later called an “attitude” driven loss. While his coaching opponent, Brad Fittler, reckons that luck was on their side during their 34-10 victory.
But what lessons do each state take away from ANZ? How do each side turn the lessons into victory come Wednesday night?
In this article, I’ll dive into what the keys to victory are for each side and give you my bold prediction.
New South Wales
If the Blues win the toss, they would be wise to kick off and allow their forwards to make a strong early impact again. During the first set of Game II, the NSW defence didn’t allow Queensland past their own 20m line. This allowed the Blues to set the pace and dictate field position early on. Plus, the crowd at Suncorp will be particularly vocal with restricted numbers from NSW, so this will be a great way to silence the Queensland fans.
The backs were phenomenal last game. Utilising skill and experience, all six tries were scored on the edge by exposing the Queensland rookies. MOTM Nathan Cleary’s game management opened up the edges and allowed the NSW backs to dominate for the majority of the game.
However, as coaches will tell you: offence wins game, defence wins championships. Both Wighton and Gutherson had bounce back games in terms of their defensive efforts which certainly restricted Queensland’s edge attack. For NSW to win in enemy territory, the backline needs to continue their dominate performance.
The loss of Cameron Munster less than two minutes into the game affected the Maroons in more ways than one. Ben Hunt came on in replacement and was virtually invisible for the remainder of the game, largely leaving all the kicking and game management to Daly Cherry-Evans. Although it was an undeniably tough night at ANZ, there are positives heading into game three.
The five changes to the line-up will alter the game plan significantly. As of Wednesday lunchtime, Corey Allan is starting at fullback with Valentine Holmes on the wing. This is a key alteration as Allan and Holmes will start the game in their most effective positions.
Allan started in fullback for the Rabbitohs after Latrell Mitchell went down the season and played a key role in their playoff push. While Holmes and the Cowboys had a disappointing season, missing six games with an ankle injury and finishing third last on the ladder. With Allan making his Origin debut and Holmes on the wing, I fully expect them to have a big impact when fatigue sets in midway through the game.
Finally for Queensland, the addition of rising superstar Harry Grant is a major play by Bennett. Grant, on loan from the Storm to the Tigers, was a bright spark in an otherwise dim season for Balmain.
His growth has prompted critics to question how the Storm will handle having Cameron Smith, Brandon Smith and Harry Grant on their playing roster next year. That’s how good he was for the Tigers. Expect him to come on around the 20-30 minute mark, once starting hooker Jake Friend has set the pace and fatigue has set it.
In doing so, Grant much like his counterpart Damien Cook, will exploit tired defensive markers and gain significant meters with enthusiasm and tenacity. Although Grant is debuting, don’t doubt for a second that he will struggle with the emotion and physical toll the game extracts from players. He will rise to the challenge and be a game changer for years to come.
This is an intriguing game. I fully expect Queensland to unleash a flurry of blows early to stagger and disorientate the Blues. If the Blues falter and struggle to control field position, Queensland will score tries early and then slow the ruck to control the game.
But if NSW can weather the storm and ignore the raving and passionate Queensland fans, the talent and experience on the team will be too great to control.
Excuse me while I wash out my mouth with soap - Queensland by 13.
Blues win tonight and Maroons win next week. Book it 😔
— Jack Yoshi (@jetjackpack)<ahref="https://twitter.com/jetjackpack/status/1326384164288024576?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November 11, 2020