FORTY years after State of Origin roared to life at Lang Park, Queensland will return to its spiritual home seeking a similar night of inspiration to take this year’s series after NSW drew level with a 34-10 win in Game 2 in Sydney.
After a brilliant display in the 2020 opener in Adelaide the week before, the Maroons could not repeat the magic of Game 1 at ANZ Stadium, struggling to make an impact in the return match against a motivated Blues side.
There were ominous signs early that it was not going to be Queensland’s night, with chief playmaker Cameron Munster out of the game after only two minutes when he was concussed by a head-slam from Blues forward Tyson Frizell.
Despite that early setback, it was Queensland who struck first on the scoreboard, with the ultra-impressive Xavier Coates grabbing his second try in just his second Origin game with an athletic effort in the corner to put the Maroons up 4-0 after seven minutes.
Queensland did not waste the positive start, with the Maroons forwards dominating the mid-field and possession to take control of the game.
But they weren’t able to capitalise, and when the Blues broke through for their first try through Cody Walker in the 16th minute, it signalled a changing of the tide.
The maligned Blues, who misfired so badly in Adelaide, started playing to their reputations and banged in another two tries before halftime to lead 18-4 at the break.
The news only got worse in the second half, as the Blues threatened to run away with the game. But Queensland’s second try, to Josh Papalii in the 62nd minute, stemmed the bleeding a little and put some respectability into the scoreline.
The Blues were impressive, but Queensland were simply not able to reproduce their Game 1 heroics just seven days later.
The Maroons backline, so impressive in Adelaide, were guilty of too many errors, producing the double-whammy of increasing the pressure on the Queensland defence, and letting the Blues bank a glut of possession and field position.
With Munster missing, the attack lacked punch and direction, and a 71 per cent completion rate was never going to be good enough.
The Queensland pack also struggled to make a dent, with only two Maroons forwards – Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Lindsay Collins – running for more than 100m in the match.
By comparison, NSW had five.
It was not the only statistical area where NSW dominated, but indicative of the gulf between the performance of the two teams that was so starkly represented on the scoreboard.
The Maroons will now have one week to lick their wounds, regroup, and reload before the series decider at Suncorp Stadium, which will be buzzing with 40,000 Queenslanders desperate for a victory that will deny the Blues a third-straight series win and bring the trophy back home to Queensland.
The win in Adelaide was proof that this latest generation of Maroons are made of the right stuff. They will not lay down with the odds stacked against them.
And just like with that fabled Maroons team of 40 years ago, led by the Immortal Arthur Beetson, an entire state will be behind them willing them to do what the critics will tell them is impossible.
NSW 34 (Addo-Carr 2, Walker, Tedesco, Wighton, Tupou tries; Cleary 5 goals) d QLD 10 (Coates, Papalii tries; Holmes goal) at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.