It was a game that New South Wales probably should have wrapped up earlier but they failed to do so and as a result, it led to a comeback win for Queensland, scoring a late try to take the series to a decider.
Criticised throughout the series for having an ageing roster, QLD went toe-to-toe in Game 2 with the forward pack making several changes after much public pressure.
The game, in many ways, was a tale of two halves. The first half belonged to the Blues as they asserted their dominance, executed their plays and went into the break leading 16-6.
In the second half, the Maroons were like a silent predator stalking its prey. Circling a tired and lame prey in NSW, they slowly drew closer to pouncing and landing the killer blow that would ultimately seal the win.
The very criticism that their ageing players drew was the fuel that invigorated the QLD side, with Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Cameron Smith, in particular, all performing well in their side’s win.
The loss will put a lot of the pressure back on the Blues as they head to Suncorp for Game 3 against a QLD side with their tails up, aiming to send out Thurston with yet another series win.
Much of the game was played at a frantic pace with QLD opening the scoring after debutant Valentine Holmes tip-toed his way down the sideline; though NSW fans were adamant he had stepped over the sideline in doing so.
NSW then had their own period of dominance as they scored three tries in quick succession with tries to Jarryd Hayne, Brett Morris and Mitchell Pearce.
The QLD side came out in the second half with a renewed hope and a stern defensive approach and it paid off in attack, as a Josh McGuire bust resulted in the first of Dane Gagai’s try.
NSW’s defence did their best to hold onto the lead after that but it was all in vain, as Dane Gagai scored his 2nd try with just minutes to go before a classic Thurston conversion; a swinging, curling kick went over, gifting QLD the lead and the win.
NSW tried their best to get over the line themselves after getting the ball back off a short kick but QLD’s defence held resolute.
Praising the QLD side and their players, Blues back-rower Wade Graham says the side still has confidence and knows they have to be better.
“They’re a great team and they ask a lot of questions, especially when you give them so many opportunities on your own line,” said Graham.
“We probably weren’t at our best in that second half and that’s really frustrating because the boys put us in a really great position at half-time.
We were probably our own worst enemies in that second half. We turned over cheap possession, gave away some penalties and didn’t finish our sets as best we could.”
Blues captain Boyd Cordner lamented his side’s second half, particularly given how well they had started the game to earn their ten-point lead.
“We worked really hard in that first half to put ourselves in that position, up by 10 points,” Cordner said.
“I thought we came out after [half-time] really good before we applied some pressure again but it just felt like we gave Queensland too much cheap ball.
“There was a stage there in the second half where we weren’t finishing sets the way we wanted to. It felt like we were getting on top then giving away a cheap penalty for them out of yardage.”
Maroons captain Cameron Smith knew they had to come out in the second half a changed team and praised his side for doing so, resulting in their win.
“We had to fix up a few things defensively where we allowed New South Wales momentum and placing pressure on ourselves,” Smith said.
“I thought as the second half went on we gained ascendancy and put pressure on New South Wales. It helps to have older guys in the side no doubt, but the young guys did a great job tonight.”
Player of the Game:
3. Dane Gagai
2. Boyd Cordner
- Josh McGuire