New South Wales v Queensland
One thing is certain – if the Maroons can manage a victory at ANZ Stadium tonight with; a mounting injury toll, their first-choice halfback watching from the sideline and a hostile Sydney crowd shouting for Maroon defeat, it will surely go down as one of the greatest escapes since Steve McQueen played Virgil Hilts.
The long wait for a New South Wales Origin victory could be over tonight if all goes to plan for Laurie Daley’s men. Having not won an Origin Series since 2005, the Blues stand on the edge of creating a new dawn for New South Wales after almost a decade’s worth of the game being shrouded in Maroon.
With a level of doubt hanging over Queensland players during camp leading into the match, the Maroons have had what has outwardly seemed like a disjointed preparation considering the question-marks hanging over halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, Billy Slater – in addition to the loss of Cooper Cronk in Game I, and the withdrawal of Corey Parker through injury during camp.
Maroons Coach Mal Meninga has given his players right up until game day to prove their fitness in a desperate attempt to have his strongest available 17 named. But will Meningas’ battered Maroons be equal to the task? The cloud of doubt hangs heavily over the Queensland camp, while the Blues have every reason and motivation in the world to snatch victory.
Our Men in Maroon
Greg Inglis, Chris McQueen and Ben Te’o retained their spot in Meninga’s Queensland side for Game II after going down to the Blues in the opening clash – McQueen and Inglis retaining their starting spots, while Te’o will again start from the bench.
Inglis declared himself fit to play after sustaining an injury in the Rabbitohs win over the New Zealand Warriors in Perth in round 13. He will take his place in the centres assuming Billy Slater is fit to play at fullback.
To see Inglis’ interview on Fox Sports’ Sterlo please click here.
For the man known as McQueenslander during Origin time, a big performance is needed in the absence of Corey Parker, giving Chris McQueen added responsibility for Game II – something he will relish.
Ben Te’o made an impact for the Queenslanders when he took the field late in Game I. His enthusiasm with the ball in hand, coupled with his rock-solid defence will be a feature for the Maroons if injuries do begin to take their toll during the match.
Last Time They Met
New South Wales defeated Queensland in Game One of the 2014 State of Origin Series by 12-8 in an epic battle in front of 52,111 rugby league fans at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
In what was the concept’s 100th match, the Blues managed to grab victory in Game One at Suncorp Stadium for the first time since 2003, with a titanic defensive effort that saw them repel wave after wave of Maroon attack.
A great charge from Chris McQueen up the middle opened up the Blues defence, putting Queensland in good attacking position early. From the ensuing plays, the Maroons shifted the ball wide out to Darius Boyd who opened the scoring to lead 4-0 just four minutes in.
But the Maroons were dealt a massive blow when halfback Cooper Cronk left the field with a broken arm, bringing Daly Cherry-Evans on to steer the Queenslanders.
The Blues hit back in the 19th minute the Morris twins combined for what would be New South Wales’ first try through the Dragons’ Brett. Trent Hodkinson also missed the conversion attempt leaving the scores at four apiece.
Just minutes later, a penalty to the Blues just 26 metres out, allowed Hodkinson the opportunity to atone for his earlier miss. The Bulldogs half made no mistake to give the Blues the lead 6-4.
Blues five-eighth Josh Reynolds found himself on report in the 28th minute when he flipped Matt Gillett in a dangerous tackle that had all of Suncorp Stadium frothing at the mouth.
New South Wales were dominating the match, and with the Blues enjoying three repeat sets on the Maroon line, Jarryd Hayne produced a moment of brilliance when he broke through three Maroon defenders off the ground to stretch out from an awkward position and score to make it 10-4 to round out the half.
Just two minutes into the second stanza, a penalty to the Blues right in front of the sticks allowed Hodkinson to boot the Blues eight points clear at 12-4.
The tables slowly began to turn in the favour of the home side – the Queenslanders managing to string some determined sets of six together, resulting Darius Boyd’s second try of the night out wide to make it 12-0.
Both sides traded blows furiously as the Maroons continued to stalk the Blues’ line with intent, looking for an opportunity to put themselves ahead. But the Blues’ defence continued to hold strong.
The epic battle raged right up to the final whistle, but the Blues held on to open their Origin account for 2014 by 12-8.
To watch all the highlights from Game I, please click here.