Queensland will head to Sydney for the series-deciding third State of Origin game, but must first head back to the drawing board after being humbled 38-6 by NSW in Game 2 at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
In Western Australia’s first Origin game, in front of the new stadium’s biggest ever crowd of 59,722, the Maroons unfortunately left their best football in Brisbane and were largely spectators themselves as the Blues ran riot.
The Queenslanders have plenty of ground to make up if they are to win Origin III in Sydney and prevent the Blues from winning back-to-back series for the first time since 2005.
After being so impressive and so dominant in the second half of Origin I, the Maroons were caught out by the intensity of the new-look Blues, who proved even more slick than the wet and firm Optus Stadium surface.
NSW were hit with a torrent of criticism after their loss in the first game, and were roasted again for making a raft of changes for the return game that were slammed as a panic response.
But the Blues lifted magnificently, setting up an absolute blockbuster to decide the series at ANZ Stadium on July 10.
Queensland had far from the ideal preparation themselves, with Game 1 stars Jai Arrow and Joe Ofahengaue both ruled out with injury, and a worrying health scare to Moses Mbye just days before the game adding to the disruption.
But there was no getting away from the fact that Queensland did not play well enough to stop the NSW onslaught.
Like the first game, NSW dominated the first half but Queensland were able to stay within striking distance at halftime through heart and commitment.
But unlike that win at Suncorp Stadium, there was no second half resurgence from the Maroons, with a lack of discipline and lack of dominance in the middle allowing the Blues to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
It was an unfortunate game to mark Matt Gillett’s elevation into rarified air, as he joined some of the Maroons’ finest servants as a recipient of the FOGS Dick ‘Tosser’ Turner Medal for his 20th Origin game for Queensland.
Queensland’s only joy on the scoreboard came in the 17th minute, when Will Chambers was awarded a penalty try after being denied a clear shot at a Ben Hint grubber kick into the in-goal by Blues centre Jack Wighton.
Kalyn Ponga drilled the conversion from right in front of the posts, leveling the scores at 6-all.
But in all respects, that was as close as the Maroons would get, with their second-worst defeat in Origin history the only thing they would take with them on the long flight back from Perth.
NSW 38 (Tom Trbojevic 3, Josh Addo-Carr 2, Tyson Frizelle tries; Nathan Cleary 2, James Maloney 5 goals) d QLD 6 (Will Chambers penalty try; Kalyn Ponga goal) at Optus Stadium, Perth. Crowd: 59,722