Queensland vs New South Wales
Maroons: 1. Val Holmes 2. Xavier Coates 3. Kurt Capewell 4. Dane Gagai 5. Corey Allan 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Christian Welch 9. Jake Friend 10. Josh Papalii 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Jaydn Su’a 13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui Interchange: 14. Harry Grant 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Jai Arrow 17. Dunamis Lui 18. Ben Hunt 19. Edrick Lee 20. Moeaki Fotuaika 21. Brenko Lee
Queensland were left reeling after their 34-10 shellacking in game two and coach Wayne Bennett has made key changes with Harry Grant and Corey Allan to make their debuts. I was surprised Ben Hunt was left out as he played a major hand in their win in game one, but Grant will add spark from the bench and provide quality back up for Jake Friend who has been solid, but has struggled to get through a full 80 minutes of the high-intensity and speed of Origin football. Corey Allan has been named on the wing to replace Phillip Sami, but the rumour is he may rotate with Val Holmes at fullback.
Losing Cam Munster early in game two due to a head knock didn’t help their cause, but even if he played the full 80, they didn’t play well enough, especially in defence to trouble the Blues last Wednesday. The gap in talent between the two sides was evident and for Queensland to win the series, they need to not only fix their defensive deficiencies, they must win the middle-third battle to lay a platform for Munster and produce more of the enthusiasm and that famous Queensland spirit they showed in their win in game one.
Blues: 1. James Tedesco (c) 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Clint Gutherson 4. Jack Wighton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cody Walker 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Damien Cook 10. Payne Haas 11. Angus Crichton 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jake Trbojevic Interchange: 14. Dale Finucane 15. Junior Paulo 16. Nathan Brown 17. Isaah Yeo 18. Ryan Papenhuyzen 19. Jarome Luai 20. Cameron McInnes 21. Nic Cotric
New South Wales bounced back in emphatic fashion at ANZ Stadium after their upset loss in game one. Their forward pack dominated, Cleary looked more composed and controlled the tempo of the game nicely with his pinpoint kicking game and Cody Walker continued the dominant form he showed in the back half of the regular season. Their outside backs also had a night out, making plenty of metres and carving up the edge defence of the Maroons. They proved why they are, on paper, the dominant football team.
The daunting task for Freddy’s men is handling the pressure of a decider at ‘The Cauldron’, which will now be at full crowd capacity of 52,000 and when you consider the border is closed to Sydney, don’t expect many Blues supporters being able to travel to support their state. So they can expect 99% of the crowd to be hostile Queenslanders. But I think this current Blues team will relish the challenge. They would have learned their lessons from game one and will be well prepared to handle an early onslaught, and if the game is close, I think the Blues have the advantage with the amount of clutch players and match winners they have in their side.
New South Wales by 2 (Blues to win series 2-1)