New South Wales levelled the State of Origin series with a dominant 44-12 victory in Perth on Sunday night, but apart from the fact that the Blues are back on song, what else did we learn?
The pressure was on the Blues heading into game two. It was do or die and they managed to get the job done in front of a packed Optus Stadium in Perth. They are priced at 13/20 to win. Queensland are 5/4.
There was nothing between the two sides in the first half as they traded tries, but a turning point came just before the break when Felise Kaufusi was controversial sent to the sin bin.
New South Wales took advantage and edged in front 14-12 thanks to a Brian To’o try just before half-time. The Maroons defended bravely while down to 12 men and managed to keep the Blues out until Kaufusi returned to the pitch.
However the huge defensive effort clearly took its toll later in the game as the Blues steamrolled the Maroons to wrap up a convincing win.
So on to Brisbane we go for the decider. No doubt both coaches will have learnt a lot from what they saw on the pitch in Perth. But what did we the fans learn? Lets take a look.
New South Wales coach Brad Fittler knows what he is doing
Fittler was heavily criticised by the media after making seven changes to the squad he picked for game one. But they are now eating their words after the players that came into the side played a huge role in the win.
In particular Jake Trbojevic. Queensland had won the battle of the forwards when taking out game one 16-10. But with Trbojevic back in the side it was NSW’s turn to dominate. He was revelation in defence and had the forwards organised.
Matt Burton also impressed at left centre when grabbing a try to cap a fine all-round display. Indeed one of the kicks he put up is still somewhere in the Perth sky above Optus Stadium!
So Fittler knew what he was doing. Like all great coaches he recognised the errors that were made in his game one selection and was brave enough to make the changes. They definitely paid off.
Barring injuries and suspensions there will not be as many changes for the decider in Brisbane.
But Fittler will be facing a couple of tough decisions and could have a real selection headache.
The first one will be over whether to bring Jack Wighton back in at left centre. Wighton was NSW’s best player in game one before being struck down by sickness. But Burton will take some shifting after his performance on Sunday.
Also Latrell Mitchell could be back available following illness and injury. That decision could be slightly easier though with Stephen Crichton likely to make way at right centre.
Nathan Cleary should never be underestimated
Just like Fittler, star halfback Nathan Cleary copped a bit of criticism after game one. He may not have hit his usual high standards but the stick he got was a little unfair.
Cleary is his own harshest critic though and he went away and worked hard. It is reported that he would stay behind for an hour and a half after every training session to work on his kicking.
It paid off as he put in a stunning man-of-the-match performance when contributing 22 points of the 44 that the Blues scored.
He did not miss a kick and also picked up two tries. Not only that he made the Blues tick throughout the game.
The Penrith star was back to his very best and it is fair to say that the critics were way too quick to jump on him after game one.
There is plenty for Queensland to work on before game three
Queensland earned plenty of plaudits following their victory in game one. And rightly so, they were outstanding. However they were brought crashing back down to earth in game two.
They did have one or two things go against them, particularly with the Kaufusi sin binning. However the way they rolled over in the latter stages of the game would have been a concern for coach Billy Slater.
Fatigue clearly played a part but Slater also admitted that his players suffered a lack of concentration and focus as the Blues ran riot.
The absence of Reuben Cotter could have had a huge impact but there is a chance he will be missing for game three also.
Slater has plenty to think about and the Maroons have plenty to work on. But there is a good chance you will see a different animal when they play in front of a packed home crowd at Suncorp for game three on 13th July.