Pressure on the Blues to save 2016 Series

Origin Image

Following their 6-4 defeat in Sydney, the NSW Blues will travel to the home of State of Origin, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, to try and keep the 2016 series alive.

Sam O’Brien

Waiting for them on the hallowed turf of Lang Park will be Origin’s greatest ever team, a Queensland Maroons side gunning for their 10th series win from 11 attempts.

Both sides have once again had a rough build up, with both sides making changes to the teams that took the field on the first Wednesday night of June.

A Queensland win this Wednesday night will seal another trophy for a side that seems to re-write the record books every time they take the field, whilst a Blues night in Brisbane will send the game to a chilly Sydney decider in early July.

 

What Game 1 taught us…

Game one of the 2016 State of Origin series was a dour affair, defined by its toughness, with neither side willing to risk letting their opposition into the game. The game did not really live up to expectations- bearing little resemblance to the teams last clash, a 52-6 rout by Queensland in game 3 2015.

Queensland opened the scoring early in the opening clash in Sydney, with a Johnathan Thurston penalty goal in the 16th minute, handing the Maroons an early lead. However, it would be the boys in blue who would cross the try line first, with Boyd Cordner busting through Queensland’s goal line defence off a contentious James Maloney pass in the 25th Minute.

The Maroons wouldn’t be made to chase for long however, wrestling back the lead in the 37th minute as Dane Gagai finished a smooth backline movement to score the eventual match winner.

What followed halftime was an incredible contest, which was defined by neither side giving an inch, with a number of chances snuffed out by impressive defensive efforts. The Blue’s went closest to troubling the scorers in the second half, with only the Bunker denying Josh Morris a try which would have handed NSW the victory. The review officials deemed Morris grounded the ball short of the all-important white paint.

Overall the 6-4 scoreline was a fair representation of the contest in which the statisticians could hardly split the two teams. For Queensland, Darius Boyd was a stand out, handing in a man of the match performance in his debut in the Maroon Number 1 jersey. Dane Gagai, Corey Parker, Cameron Smith and Justin O’Niell (debut) all contributed significantly to the Queensland cause, whilst the performance of second rower Boyd Cordner was a definite highlight for the Blues.

The burning question from game 1 is whether NSW can go up a gear. Queensland looked flat, and far from their best in the opener, yet they still found a way to win. If Queensland can play at their best in game 2, its tough to see the Blues keeping pace.

 

The Line Ups

Queensland:

1. Darius Boyd, 2. Corey Oates, 3. Greg Inglis, 4. Justin O’Neill, 5. Dane Gagai, 6. Johnathan Thurston, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Josh McGuire, 11. Matt Gillett, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Corey Parker

Interchange: 14. Michael Morgan, 15. Jacob Lillyman, 16. Aidan Guerra, 17. Josh Papalii, 18th man. Ethan Lowe

New South Wales:

1. Matt Moylan, 2. Blake Ferguson, 3. Michael Jennings, 4. Josh Morris, 5. Josh Mansour, 6. James Maloney, 7. Adam Reynolds, 8. Aaron Woods, 9. Robbie Farah, 10. James Tamou, 11. Greg Bird, 12. Josh Jackson, 13. Paul Gallen

Interchange: 14. Dylan Walker, 15. Tyson Frizell, 16. David Klemmer, 17. Andrew Fifita

 

Both sides see changes from game 1 with injury and suspension creating discussion for selectors.

For Queensland, enforcer Nate Myles has been ruled out with a knee injury- his spot in the lineup taken by game one super sub Josh Maguire. Jacob Lillyman comes in as the new man on the bench, despite being dropped for game one. Queensland Selectors will not be too phased by these changes, with many people calling for this line up prior to game one. Myles, despite always lifting when in a maroon jumper, has struggled for form this year in a troubled Manly side, whilst Jacob Lillyman was one of Queensland’s best in his last Origin appearance.

For New South Wales, things have been slightly more troubling. Game one standout Boyd Cordner has been ruled out with a foot injury, which left the Blues searching for a second rower. Names such as rookie Bryce Cartwright and experienced hand Ryan Hoffman were tossed up, before the eventual selection of Cronulla Mr Fix-it Wade Graham. Graham’s Origin dream was short-lived however, with the judiciary rubbing him out of game 2 with a grade one careless high tackle charge. As a result, Greg Bird has moved from the bench to start the match, with Dragons enforcer Tyson Frizell named on the bench to make his Origin debut.

 

Most at Stake…

Whilst it goes without saying that the Blues have a massive point to prove in saving the series in Brisbane, the game will hold extra importance to a number of players looking to cement their spot as Origin standard players.

Laurie Daley has stuck with a loyal approach to the selection of his side, meaning a number of players who handed in sub-par performances in game one will be provided with the opportunity to redeem themselves.

In the lead up to game one of the series, most of the selection discussion centered around NSW’s spine, with the fullback and halfback positions most debated. In the number 1 jersey it was Matt Moylan who was given the nod, following an injury to front-runner James Tedesco. With Tedesco fit, and Moylan turning in a nervous game one performance, the Penrith flyer can consider himself lucky to have retained his spot in Daley’s lineup. A sub par game 2 performance may not see Moylan as lucky for game 3.

In game 1 Adam Reynolds became the latest half to pull on the Blue number 7 jersey, made famous by names such as Kenny, Sterling and Johns. A left field choice at halfback, given his at times questionable defense and weak running game, Reynolds was solid without being brilliant in game 1. However, NSW traditionally doesn’t hold too much patience when it comes to their halves, and so Reynolds’ Origin future may hinge on his ability to manufacture a Blues win in game 2.

On the Maroon side, Sam Thaiday is approaching the twilight of his Origin career, with his major contributions to game 1 coming in the form of a post match interview. At 31 years of age, Thaiday can ill afford another mediocre performance, with Cowboys fringe forwards Gavin Cooper (18th man for Game One) and Ethan Lowe (18th man for Game 2) bashing down the door, looking for their opportunity. Their time may come if Thaiday fails to step up in Game 2.

 

Where it will be won…

Despite the tough, defensive nature of Game One, Game Two looks set to be a more free flowing contest, with Suncorp Stadium likely to provide a much quicker surface allowing for better ball movement. Whilst Game One turned out to be a battle of the forwards, game 2 looks set to be decided in the halves, with kicking games and attacking cohesion likely to be the major factors in this contest.

Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston were below their best in game 1, and another off performance may open the door enough for the Blues to swoop in to take advantage. Adam Reynolds and James Maloney are known for their strong kicking games, and this aspect of their game will be crucial if NSW wish to send the series to a decider in Sydney.

 

How the bookies see it…

Sportsbet

Queensland, $1.58

New South Wales, $2.45

William Hill

Queensland, $1.55

New South Wales, $2.45

Centrebet

Queensland, $1.55

New South Wales, $2.45

Odds Current as of 17 June 2016. Remember, if you are going to have a punt on the game, please gamble responsibly.

 

The Verdict…

Despite a relatively close game 1, it is tough to see a similar result on the cards for game 2. Last time these teams met at Suncorp Stadium, Queensland were brutal in dismantling the NSW defence on their way to a 46-point victory. Whilst Wednesday’s game may not turn out a result of that magnitude, NSW will need to significantly improve on their performance to be able to effectively challenge the Maroons at home. The loss of Boyd Cordner also looks certain to trouble the Blues, whilst the Maroon’s changes make them look an even stronger outfit.

If the Maroons show up to play, they will win. If New South Wales don’t show up to play, it could be a repeat of Game Three, 2015. With all that said, Maroons by 12.