Almanac Rugby League – 2022 State of Origin, Game 2 Review: Freddy’s gamble pays off big-time!

 

 

 

 

We’re off to a Game 3 decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 13 after the NSW Blues blew the Queensland Maroons off the Optus Stadium playing field with a 44-12 belting last night. A closely fought, tense first half gave little indication of the carnage to come as NSW scored five unanswered second half tries against a wilting defence.

 

The key moments of the game were the five minutes before half-time and the first 10 minutes of the second half. NSW enjoyed a glut of ball late in the first stanza with as many as five repeat sets within 20 metres of the Queensland line. But the Maroons hung on and seemed to have weathered the storm before yet another call against Holmes gave NSW a further set to try to crack the line. Kaufusi was subsequently sin-binned for his team’s repeated infringements in the ruck and, in the following set, NSW exploited the overlap out wide to score and go into the sheds two points ahead and with their tails up. The Maroons had used up a lot of petrol.

 

The second half opened with NSW again applying sustained pressure up close against a 12 man defence. The Maroons survived for 10 minutes but eventually cracked. Their tanks were running on empty and, from then onwards, it became a procession. NSW played with confidence, cohesion and complete control while Queensland fumbled, faltered and faded out of the game completely.

 

There’s an old axiom about rugby league – forwards win matches. This game was a classic example. No doubt the Blues backline will get most of the plaudits (they scored 6 of the 7 tries) but it was up front where the damage was done, particularly from about the 35th minute onwards. After being badly beaten in Game 1, this time around the NSW forwards ran with strength, purpose and menace as they gobbled up huge yardage in every set before hunting as a pack in defence to suffocate the Maroons’ uninventive, one-out returns. Their line speed and mobility were overpowering. By contrast, the Maroons pack looked lead-footed and slow.

 

This forwards dominance had several consequences. Firstly, the likes of Cleary, Luai, Tedesco, To’o and Tupou had the time and space to gain big metres on kick returns and create expansive ball movement, a complete contrast to Game 1 where they were stifled; secondly, the Maroons were repeatedly on the back foot, often starting their sets in possession from deep in their own territory – they were the suffocated this time round; thirdly, and I think this is the most critical point, Yeo and Trbojevic are great ball runners but they also act as alternative second-receiver five-eighths/distributors, allowing for multi-focal points of attack on both sides of the field which, in turn, creates doubt for defenders as well as allowing the likes of Cleary and Luai to play wider and create extra men out wide.

 

Not surprisingly, Cleary was awarded man of the match for his 2 tries and 8 goals but it could just as easily have gone to Trbojevic who clocked up 30 tackles and 150 metres gained to be the best forward on the ground. What a mistake it was to leave him out of Game 1!

 

Full credit to the NSW forwards, including their bench players, for their power display that eventually broke the game wide open and allowed the second half parade. Cook was a revitalised player when he came on and provided better service than Koroisau; Burton had a blinder on debut and the back three of Tedesco, To’o and Tupou ran for a combined 700+ metres.

 

Ben Hunt, Kalyn Ponga and Pat Carrigan were the best for a disappointing Maroons side. The first half tries to Kaufusi and Munster came after Ponga spurts, Hunt battled manfully in a beaten pack, and Carrigan again ran fearlessly. Munster was shut out of the game by close checking defence and Cherry-Evans had a poor game by his standards but, in his defence, it’s hard for a halfback to shine when his forwards are being belted.

 

So we head to Suncorp with the Blues on a high and the Maroons licking their wounds. The powers that be have the decider they so badly wanted.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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