Queensland has squared the State of Origin series in remarkable fashion at Suncorp Stadium tonight, totally dominating a lackluster NSW outfit to run out comprehensive 30-nil winners to send the series to a decider. It simply wasn’t the Blues’ night; new comer Steve Turner having an absolute horror debut and faltering badly all night to allow one-way traffic down his soft edge.
A ravenous crowd of 54 298 “nutbag rednecks” (as Willie Mason referred to them in the lead up to the clash) , never had any cause for the concern as the home side squared the three game series in emphatic fashion, led by an unstoppable Greg Inglis.
New South Wales were outplayed in every facet of the game as the Maroons made a mockery of their inept game one performance, showing their renowned venom in defence, and much more enterprise in attack. Any window of opportunity for the NSW side was quickly closed by a dropped ball or unlucky referee call; the Queenslanders doing a good job of influencing Tony Archer – the No. 1 NRL referee hammering the Blues in every department all night and not giving an inch.
Melbourne superstar Greg Inglis cast off the memory of a below-par performance in game one, tearing apart the visitors left-edge defence to hand debutante winger Darius Boyd two first half tries on a platter.
The Maroons held a commanding 16-nil lead by half time and the contest was effectively over, as they cruised to a comfortable win.
Origin legends including Wally Lewis, Allan Langer and Gene Miles adorned Suncorp Stadium in a tribute to the Queensland ‘Team of the Century,’ prior to the match, and it had the desired effect, as the Maroons came out breathing fire.
And it was telling on the Blues defence early, they gave away an early penalty for holding down in the ruck, as they struggled to match the intensity of their Queensland counterparts.
The home team showed their hand early, attacking the Blues’ left hand edge defence, applying pressure to Mark Gasnier and debutante Steve Turner.
And it didn’t take long for the Maroons to get a result, as Inglis set about exploiting Turner’s indecisiveness, and Gasnier’s lack of recent game time.
Inglis surged into a yawning gap between Gasnier and Turner, fending off both would-be defenders along with Matt Cooper, then feigned to pass inside before linking with Boyd on his outside to put the Bronco in for the opening try.
Johnathan Thurston’s conversion was on the money, and the Maroons were up by six after eight minutes.
Poor ball control was the Blues worst enemy as they continued to to cough up cheap ball, they finally earned a repeat set through a line dropout, but Paul Gallen coughed up the pill on play one to keep the visitors on the rack.
Inglis was ultra-quiet in game one, but he couldn’t be silenced in an electric opening 20 minutes, the Storm flyer again found space on the left edge, busting the line to set up a 70 metre special to put Boyd in for try number two.
Thurston again had no trouble adding the extras, putting the home side 12-nil in front after just 21 minutes.
Poor discipline continued to hamper the Blues attempts to get back into the match, the visitors conceding two gift penalty kicks to Thurston in the back end of the half, giving the Maroons a commanding 16-point lead at the break.
The home side extended their lead to three converted tries courtesy of another penalty to Thurston in the 53rd minute, before the Queenslanders iced the game shortly after.
Ben Hannant forced his way over in the 64th minute to extend the Queensland lead, but the best was yet to come for the rampant Maroons, with Israel Folau storming onto a pin-point Scott Prince kick in the 68th minute for the Maroons fourth try to round out a flawless performance.
The NSW Blues camp must not resort to mass changes; simply write the night off as a bad day at the office. Bring Luke Bailey back into the side, push Fitzgibbon to the backrow all at the expense of possibly Steve Simpson.
Channel 9 commentator Phil Gould was calling for the head of Greg Bird; citing a need for a ball playing pivot – but the Blues should remain calm and trust the side that did the job in Game 1. NSW must now work hard to get the ear of the referee prior to Game 3, as the Queenslanders did for this game and ensure they have the edge in the departments that matter; such as the direct markers, 10m and constant stripping at the ball.
The Maroons however will only need to overcome the hoodoo at ANZ Stadium. They know now they have the personnel to get the win and they have the gameplan to beat the Blues. They just need some confidence early in enemy territory and they could be well on their way to an unlikely series win after losing Game 1