Friday 18 August 2017 / 01:08 PM

State Of Origin: Game II Thoughts

QLD 26 NSW 6.

Domination. Clearly the first word that springs to mind when evaluating Queensland’s impressive victory last Wednesday night.

In front of 51,690 Rugby League enthusiasts at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland put on a footballing clinic to level 2013 State of Origin series.

As we strolled down Given Terrace it was a seemingly unusual crowd to pervious Origin nights in Brisbane. The colour Maroon was plastered everywhere, and compared to past years the NSW contingent was evidently lacking. Nonetheless, even though the Blues had only won twice at Suncorp in the last nine attempts, the NSW fans that made the effort were openly beaming with confidence and weren’t afraid of letting the QLD faithful know.

It was quiet entertaining to observe. While the bulk of the QLDers weathered the belligerent banter and made their way inside, a small portion (such as myself) stood up for their fellow allies and returned fire with the usual truths that consistently leave Blues fans speechless; ‘Gallen is a grub’, ‘7 in a row, 7 in a row, 7 in a row’, ‘Gallen is a grub’, ‘Pearce sucks’, ‘Gallen is a grub’, ‘Gallen’s a wanker’, ‘ Gallen is a grub’.

 

Did I mention 7 in a row?’

 

‘What about Gallen being a grub?’

 

Yes, truths.

 

Being in our normal seats, I was enormously stoked knowing there were Blues fans seated around us. A heart-warming sensation was being able to observe NSW supporters for the whole 80 minutes; well the ones I respected (just a smidge) for sticking out the entire game. All match, they had absolutely nothing to cheer about. Nothing! Which led to many of them leaving before the full-time siren. Anyone who leaves an Origin game before the buzzer to beat traffic or some pathetic excuse like that, isn’t a genuine Rugby League fan.

The stadium was a little quiet as patrons filled out the venue. As this thought came over me, Cam Smith led the Maroons out. That thought vanished just as quickly as it developed; it was clear the QLD army had been saving their voices for the game. The relentless attitude of the home crowd was tremendous. NSW didn’t stand a chance.

State of Origin Game II Thoughts:

 

Queensland

 

The Maroons dominated from the start – 60% possession in the first half:

  • 8 minutes in, QLD had made 308 meters, NSW just 99 meters.
  • 15 minutes in, QLD 600 meters, NSW just 183 meters.
  • 27 minutes in, QLD an enormous 996 meters, NSW just 399 meters.
  • 20 minutes in QLD had made 27 tackles, NSW 107.

 

With hard running and a solid kicking game, QLD controlled the match for the first 25 minutes.

 

QLD: Matthew Scott and Nate Myles: 34 runs for 307 meters.

Matthew Scott: Set the pace early with 7 hit-ups in the first 13 minutes. Scott finished the match with 18 runs (second highest) for 169 meters, 23 tackles and 1 tackle bust in 49 minutes. An inspiring Scott displayed his usual hard running style that was absent in Game I. Scott has an amazing ability of making meters after contact; his knack for absorbing the initial exchange and continuing to drive was unmatched; hence his game high 169 meters. Partner in crime, Nate Myles, put in a solid night with 16 runs for 138 meters, 1 offload, 2 tackles busts and 27 tackles in 53 minutes. These two were the catalysts for the Maroons early dominance, particularly Scott (definitely one of QLD’s best on the night).

 

NSW: Paul Gallen and Aaron Woods: 19 runs for 151 meters.

 

Paul Gallen: As always, his numbers were great, however Gallen went back to his whining ways. Any chance he got to complain, he did. When things don’t go the Blues way, Gallen gets frustrated – it doesn’t go unnoticed. After QLD scored the first try (2 minutes in), Gallen really stepped up his acting performance. Purposely falling over while playing the ball, throwing his hands up in disgusts on every tackle, arguing each single call with a ‘Sir. Sir. But. Sir’; it’s embarrassing to watch.

 

Suncorp brings the best out in the front-rower. Paul provided the crowd with gallons of entertainment.

Paul always finishes a game (Club, Test and Origin level) with incredibly respectable statistics, and generally some play that makes the highlight reel (like his remarkable try saving tackle on Corey Parker). However his performances are tarnished by his inability to unite his team once they are on the back foot. Including Game II, out of the last 11 Origin games, QLD have led at half-time during 10 of them, and have gone onto win 8.

In recent years, when the Blues team has needed inspiration, it’s very rarely come from Gallen. Robbie Farah provides that critical guidance that Gallen desperately lacks. Farah would know the Blues game plan inside and out; what the forward’s tactics are and what is required from the backline. Gallen appeared on Sterlo and was asked about their kicking strategies in Game I. He simply stated that their kicking tactics had nothing to do with him and how that’s the backs job to know. Which is somewhat true. Except, how can a team be united if they aren’t all on the same page? Especially if it is your team captain who isn’t in the know. How can Gallen offer any credible motivation or support to a Nathan Merritt for his defensive breakdowns if he doesn’t even know that Merritt is just following orders from coach Laurie Daley to come in off his line?

If the Maroons go on to record an eighth straight Origin victory, should the Blues look at changes in avenues that aren’t specifically positional? Is the captaincy the problem? Should Blues fans be concerned that Gallen has never led NSW to an Origin series triumph?

Aaron Woods: Woods was a complete no show; 5 runs for 36 meters, 2 ineffective tackles, 1 missed tackle, 1 penalty against, and 20 tackles in 28m minutes. Any work he put in was soft and lethargic. Aaron basically looked out of his depth; a debut he would like to forget.

 

Corey Parker: The veterans’ remarkable form continued in Game II. Parker was arguably the Maroons best player in Game I, and even though Cam Smith took Man of the Match honours last Wednesday night, Corey Parker, in my mind, was the top player on the field. Parker had 19 runs (game high) for 160 meters, 3 offloads, 3 tackle busts and 21 tackles in 57 minutes; he more than justified his promotion into the stating line-up.

 

Late in the game, about the 72nd minute, Brent Tate went back to fetch a kick and hurled a 10-15 meter pass to Johnathan Thurston. Thurston was reluctant to catch the ball as the pass had put him in a vulnerable position. JT took the dime and was hammered. Next play, Tate realising his mistake, quickly darted to dummy half for run. NSW were applying pressure and Tate got nowhere. Parker was the first forward back and in he went to first receiver. Corey bumped off Robbie Farah, James Maloney, and made about 10-12 meters; while dragging a few defenders along the way. With 8 minutes to go, and the game clearly over, Parker could have taken the easy option of not hurrying back, not taking the hit up, and not pumping his legs. This type of play defines Corey.

Luke Lewis: NSW player of the series so far.

 


Queensland Kicking Game:
The Maroons were on target. Cooper Cronk set the tone early with a pinpoint bomb that landed inches out from the Blues try-line, followed by a strategic kick to the corner that found touch after a strong set of six. One of Cronks finest aspects is his kick and chase. Even if he doesn’t make the initial tackle, his pressure forces the returning player to change his line.

 

Another significant scheme the Maroons implemented with huge success was kicking early after points to gain field position. QLD kicked on the fourth regularly, and even on the third a few times. After adding two points in the 8th minute, Scott led the Maroons up the field, and on the third tackle, Cam Smith put in an excellent kick from dummy half; the chase was just as impressive. This was followed up by a strong defensive set. It’s decisive sequences like this that drain your opponent, physically and mentally.

Ball control played huge part in Game II. 15 minutes in QLD had a perfect completion rate (10/10). However at about the 10-minute mark, the Maroons looked a little lost on offense. Overlaps weren’t being taken advantage of, players looked out of position, and outside backs were over running plays. Despite these discrepancies, the Maroons managed to maintain great ball control. QLD stuck to their game plan and forced numerous repeat sets (Aaron Woods knock down, Michael Jennings penalty, Josh Morris knock on, Thaiday’s grubber in goal). Eventually NSW broke down as Nathan Merritt came off his wing to make a play at Greg Inglis. A simple dummy, and pass behind Merritt’s’ back from JT found and unmark Darius Boyd who strolled over. Strong defensive sets, early kicks after points, and exceptional ball security allowed QLD to pepper the Blues line all night long; as a result of this, the Blues were broken early and basically never let back into the game.

Chris McQueen: is from Kingaroy, the home of the peanut!

 

NSW Kicking Game: It was shit. Properly, shit. By far the worst kicking game at Origin level we have seen for years. If a kick wasn’t too short, it was too wide. If it wasn’t too wide, it was too long. If it wasn’t too long, it was too shallow.

 

The decision making from both halves was atrocious. At least seven or eight possessions were wasted because of Maloney’s and Pearce’s poor execution on the 5th tackle; particularly inside QLD’s 20-meter line. The momentum shift that occurs when a horrible kick takes place is extraordinary. Even as a fan you feel like you’ve just gotten one up on the opposition; it’s a complete waste. Is it a problem for NSW? Definitely. The reason great players such as Darren ‘The Oracle’ Lockyer, Andrew Johns, Allan Langer, Brad Fittler, and Laurie Daley finished their careers with such remarkable winning percentages, was because of their incredible aptitude to build pressure by forcing repeat set after repeat set. Something NSW halves cannot do. Before Origin II, Pearce and Maloney had a combined total of 12 forced drop out all season at club level; the least in the whole NRL. In a game where building pressure is everything, this is a gigantic issue.

If the fifth or sixth bomb didn’t work, why not place a few kicks on ground, get behind the defensive line, and apply some force that way? Daley Cherry-Evans has only played 23-minutes of Origin football and he’s even forced a dropout. Sam Thaiday even had one in Game II!!!

It wasn’t just their halves either. Robbie Farah’s decision to kick a grubber over the sideline 30 minutes in was a strange (dumb) choice. Your team is down 14-0, getting absolutely drilled, you haven’t even looked like scoring, or had the ball, why gift QLD the opportunity to reset their offensive line and draw up a blueprint for the ensuing set of six? In that situation, to have any chance of getting back in the game, pressure must be forced back onto QLD. You’re playing away, down 14-0, and your team has finally gripped a slither of momentum, why throw it all away and take your foot off the pedal? An uncharacteristic move from the usual, level headed Farah.

One occurrence that summed up the Blues kicking game was their first set of six of the second half. Preferably, compared to other kicks, it’s more important to get away a decent kick on your first set of either half. It calms the nerves and gives the players a sense of relief. A charge down gifting the ball to QLD 45-meters out is not the ideal way to begin the half.

Josh Dugan: Dugan was outstanding. The only NSW back that threatened QLD’s defensive line – he was also brilliant under the high ball. Josh finished with 16 runs for 109 meters and 6 tackle busts. He was voted players’ player and was a great replacement for the always-dangerous Jarryd Hayne. Even though you’d rather Hayne any day of the week, it’s a shame the Blues are unable to select both of these guys for Game III. Dugan might actually be a little pleased; he’ll be able to down a carton of Vodka Cruisers while watching the decider – maybe even enjoy the game with his old mate Blake Ferguson.

 

Mitchell Pearce: For Queensland sake, I hope NSW continue to pick Pearce. Why? Because I have a dream. This vision involves me picking up the Courier Mail after the Origin series in 2015, and seeing the headline, ‘A Decade of Dominance’. If NSW don’t accept the fact that Pearce is just not Origin material, the chance of my dream becoming reality multiplies, significantly.

 

Pearce has been apart of four losing Origin campaigns (2008, 2010, 2011, 2012), and not once has he ever controlled an Origin battle so impressively that it’s left onlookers thinking, ‘wow, this guy can play’.

Todd Carney is unfortunately a victim; Carney’s 2012 Origin series was great. He single handled turned Game II after Cooper Cronk was sent off (the line break that lead to Brett Stewart scoring under the posts). In Game III, Todd absolutely nailed a conversation from the sideline to tie the game in the 69th minute (massive balls!). Throughout that game Todd was cleaning up after Pearce. One scenario that unfolded that game demonstrated the difference between both players. In the 31st minute Thurston broke the line when he pulled of his trademark ‘show and go’ move. Thurston was on his own 20 and got on the outside of a pathetic attempt from Pearce; adding to Mitchell’s missed tackle count of 8 that game. JT offloaded to Cooper Cronk who had no one between him and the white line. Carney ran from the other side of the field and pulled off a try saving tackle. The ball went to Corey Parker, who offloaded to Thurston who scored. As Parker offloaded Carney was there again; where was Pearce? Jogging back, not sprinting, jogging. Pearce did not come back into the television picture after JT’s initial break, until the Maroons had well and truly scored; he was the third last Blues player back onside. Pathetic and lazy; the definition of an awful teammate. How was he not scratch after this?

Cooper Cronks 42-meter drop goal in Game III last year was amazing, would Pearce have the balls or skill to pull something like that off? Definitely not. Would Carney, for sure. Yeah they play in different positions, but the only reason the Blues ditched Todd for James Maloney this year, is because of Pearce and Maloney’s relationship at the Roosters. The combination of James Maloney and Adam Reynolds, or Reynolds and Carney, or even Maloney and Carney, scares the shit out of me way more than any combination that involves Pearce.

Johnathan Thurston: JT was back, and he was bloody marvellous. His numbers that consisted of 10 points, 1 tackle busts and 2-try assist do not do the legend justice. Thurston was barking orders all evening long and reminded the NRL community of his legendary status. JT’s two try assists to Boyd were undeniably his high points on the night; One, a double pump pass, and two, a cut out pass that was inch perfect. One word, immortal.

 

NSW Bench: One positive for NSW was their bench; well, Andrew Fifita, Trent Merrin and Anthony Watmough. Josh Reynolds ran sideways all night and left gaps in the defensive line as he contentiously tried to put a shot on Josh Papalii. The Blues bench combined for 40 runs with a total of 293 meters gained, compared to QLD’s 162 meters off 18 runs. Fifita was by far the most impressive; 12 runs for 100 meters, 2 offloads, 1 tackle bust, and 29 tackles in 32 minutes of football. When the Blues were on the back foot (which was all night), Fifita gave them hope. His destructive running style required attention from at least three defenders all night. With the return of James Tamou for Game III, NSW will have a better recipe for forward momentum.

 

Nathan Merritt: Looked more out of place than the gold medal around Steven Bradbury’s neck.

 

The Maroons scored three tries down his side. How drunk do you think Blake Ferguson got while watching that unfold?

The Fight and the Referees: Unfortunately another Origin game takes a back seat to some hideous decisions made by the referees. Again NSW took matters into their own hands and threw punches at a QLD player while they weren’t looking – or had their hands down by their side. The NRL shot themselves in the foot by publically threatening the referees; giving them an ultimatum along the lines of, ‘if players aren’t sent to the sidelines after a fight, those referees will not be there for Game III’.

 

The sending off of Brent Tate and Greg Bird is laughable, it’s one of the most pathetic and stupidest things I’ve ever seen on a Rugby League field; David Smith is to blame. Maybe even more stupid than John Hopoate’s finger experiment:

Did Smith believe countless threats to the referees would fix the problem? If David Smith, the NRL, and the referee committee just admitted that they made a mistake by not binning Gallen for 10 minutes in Game I, things would be fine. Sure a few bias QLDers might have complained that more of a punishment needed to be handed out, but that’s easy to deal with and a much better scenario than the current state of leaving every Rugby League fan disappointed.

Brent Tate and Greg Bird should not have been sent to the bin. Tate received a yellow card for trying to play the ball and coping two punches from Merrin. Bird was given ten in the bin for, ‘getting involved in an incident that didn’t concern him’; if that’s the case, than every player on the field should have been disciplined. Additionally, for the first time ever, I agreed with Greg Bird as he replied, ‘Fuck off’. The decision to sit these two players was just as woeful as Bill Harrigan’s choice to send Gorden Tallis off in the 2000 Origin series.

The NRL cannot simply implement a black and white law and expect the problem to be fixed; every incident on the field is different, common sense must come into play. One player stomping on another’s face is not the same as two players who start swinging at each other simultaneously, that’s fair, that’s League; the game we’ve loved for over 116 years. Wednesday night should have seen Trent Merrin in the bin for 10 minutes. That would have been that, case closed; League fans would have been satisfied. Justin Hodges came in and threw some punches. Hodges was standing up for his teammate who got completely blindsided by Merrin’s brain explosion, and he wouldn’t have jumped in if Merrin didn’t initiate the incident. Hodges being sin binned, I can live with. But disciplining the instigator, Merrin, equally the same as Hodges is not acceptable. This referee debacle was disgraceful and frankly embarrassing for the game. No fans want to see an 11-on-11 State of Origin Game.

As Laurie Daley said, ‘We need to be careful with hard and fast rules’.

Queensland decision to take the penalty with two minutes left. I loved this decision; after controlling the match, it was the perfect conclusion for the Maroons. JT took his time to line up the kick, and for roughly 2 or 3 minutes, the Blues players and crowd were forced to observe the Maroon victory celebrations that consisted of a myriad of high-fives and hugs. Furthermore, while this transpired, every Queensland onlooker was chanting, applauding and expressing their severe appreciation for their teams’ much needed, dominant performance.

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About the author

Drew Woodhouse

Our inspirational leader, Commentary Box Sports founder Drew is a born sports fanatic – particularly when it comes to rugby league, union, surfing NBA and NFL. A Brisbane native currently working out of Sydney, Drew’s occasional writing forays reflect that fierce passion.

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