Game 1 was a one-sided contest in favor of the Blues, with the visitors recording their biggest ever win over the Maroons at Suncorp Stadium. The home team was on the back foot from the opening moments, with the Blues piling on pressure either side of the ball. They broke their opponents early and had several other chances within the first half to extend their lead but were unable to. A try to the Maroons in the 35th minute narrowed the margin to just 2 points; with an uncharacteristic defensive lapse from the Maroons opening the way to a Blues try right on HT. This is an occurrence that previously would not have happened and was a sign that the Maroons were a remarkably different team compared with previous years. The first half of play was one of the fastest and well executed in recent memory and it took a toll on the players; many have reported being physically ill during the break. The Maroons came out with high hopes in the second half, but were quickly put in their place. The Blues went from strength to strength, scoring 3 more tries and outclassing the Maroons in just about every area of the game. Scoring 3 tries within 8 minutes (51st-59th minute) was enough to seal victory, with the Maroons unable to trouble the scorer for the remainder of the match. The overall match was a high quality contest; the Maroons completed at 83% and the Blues 90%, with just a total of 12 errors over the 80 minutes. Defensive pressure was high, with a total of 106 tackles missed (58 by the Maroons and 48 by the Blues) and it was relentless over the entire 80 minutes. The major difference between the two sides came in the forwards, the Blues carried the ball for an average of 8.7m compared with the Maroons 8.2m per carry; this does appear to be a small difference but it took a toll on the home team, as well as the fact that the Blues had 6 line breaks to just 3 of the Maroons. This has caused massive changes to be made within the Maroons camp and the immediate return of quality players into their team has many worried that they can square the ledger in the series. For the Blues, they have a great opportunity to capture the series on home turf, where the Maroons have previously struggled. It will require the same level of effort from the home team for this to occur, with the stage set for yet another epic encounter between these two teams.
New South Wales
- James Tedesco 2. Blake Ferguson 3. Josh Dugan 4. Jarryd Hayne 5. Brett Morris 6. James Maloney 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Aaron Woods 9. Nathan Peats 10. Andrew Fifita 11. Josh Jackson 12. Boyd Cordner (c) 13. Tyson Frizell
Interchange: 14. David Klemmer 15. Wade Graham 16. Jake Trbojevic 17. Jack Bird
For the first time in a long time, the Blues have named an unchanged lineup in consecutive matches. This is no surprise given they were so successful in Game 1 in just about every area of the match. The key for the Blues is to maintain the dominance in the middle of the field, as well as the intensity that is established in the early stages of the match. This created a strong platform for the halves, which in turn, assisted the outside backs in their execution. Losing Mitchell Pearce to concussion also exhibited the numerous roles that Jack Bird can play as a utility and give the Blues another dimension in their attack; perhaps this wasn’t used to its full potential and the Blues could have a few surprises in store this time around.
First Try Scorer/Last Try Scorer
Best Option = James Tedesco @ $10 – Tedesco was great in Game 1 and is an attacking threat anywhere on the field. The advantage of him at this level is that he can roam around the field, more often than not, popping up as a support player for an offload.
Outsider = Boyd Cordner @ $17 – He was outstanding in Origin 1 and came out of the Roosters in the following match and scored 2 tries. He hits the line hard and will be an option for the halves, rather than play to a man running out the back.
Nathan Peats @ $17 – Peats was fantastic in Game 1 and while other players gathered more attention for their game, his efforts did not go unnoticed. He controlled the speed of the ruck with poise and made a large impact in defence. A similar contribution when the “more fancied” players are targeted may see Peats shine through and deliver at large odds in such an influential position within the team.
- Billy Slater 2. Valentine Holmes 3. Will Chambers 4. Darius Boyd 5. Dane Gagai 6. Johnathan Thurston 7. Cooper Cronk 8. Dylan Napa 9. Cameron Smith (c) 10. Jarrod Wallace 11. Gaving Cooper 12. Matt Gillett 13. Josh McGuire
Interchange: 14. Michael Morgan 15. Josh Papalii 16. Coen Hess 17. Tim Glasby
The Maroons have been thrown into chaos following their largest ever defeat at Suncorp Stadium and they have responded accordingly. Their famous “pick and stick” loyalty has been shafted, as they attempt to salvage the series and send a few of their retiring stars out of the Origin arena as winners. The squad has changed so much that 7 new players have been brought into the team, most notably Thurston and Slater. The experience that each brings to this team will have their opponents worried; you only have to look at Thurston’s game last week against the Eels, his first since injuring himself for the Kangaroos. He was dominant in every area of the match and will release pressure on Cronk and Smith in the halves; nevertheless, he can expect plenty of traffic to come his way throughout this match. After being left out of Game 1, Slater returns to the team and will have a large impact on the outcome of this match. This has pushed Darius Boyd to the outside backs and brings together the famous spine that has dominated the Blues in the past on numerous occasions. Coen Hess and Tim Glasby will make their Origin debuts, with many wondering if either is up to this level. No doubt they are given their form for their club and the trust that is instilled in them via selection. This is arguably the team that the Maroons should’ve pick for Game 1 (minus JT who was injured) and if it were, the outcome of that contest probably would’ve been remarkably different.
First Try Scorer/Last Try Scorer
Best Option = Dane Gaigai @ $7 – Gaigai was expected to move into the centres in order to bring him closer to the ball; this hasn’t happened and he will remain on the wing. That didn’t trouble him in Game 1 as he was one of the Maroons best. His record at Origin level is outstanding, scoring 5 tries in 5 matches. His matchup against the Blues left edge will be one that the Maroons target; they only had minimal opportunities last time out and created 1 line break with a poor read by Hayne and his inside defenders. He isn’t playing this position each week and he can expect an increased level of pressure this time around.
Outsider = Johnathan Thurston @ $26 – JT demonstrated just how far ahead of the competition he was with his efforts against the Eels. With the Blues defensive line worried about his options, they may not pick up the man with the ball. Thurston also puts himself in fantastic attacking position, always willing to do the little things in a match that not many others would do.
Cooper Cronk @ $10 – The inclusion of Thurston changes Cronk’s role within the team; he is still responsible for getting his team around the field, although JT will reduce the pressure upon his shoulders. Always a great team man, Cronk will relish the release of some pressure and we will see a different side to his game given the circumstances.
Overall = Blues 49 Draw 2 Maroons 58
At ANZ Stadium = Blues 16 Draw 1 Maroons 8
The Blues have all the momentum and returning home to ANZ only further enhances their chances. Nevertheless, this is the team that the Maroons should’ve picked for Game 1 and they will fancy their chances of bouncing bcak with a stronger/more-experienced outfit. The challenge for them will be halting the force created in the middle by the Blues forwards; last time out, it was a downfall of the Maroons and it took plenty of energy to halt their relentless drives. The difference between the two packs was vast and a different approach is needed this time around; hence the recruit of some players to slow sown the ruck speed and limit offloads. The doubt around the visitors and their chances in this game means that plenty of value can be achieved by investing on them and this game is a lot closer than the odds are suggesting. The fact that just about everything went right for the Blues last match covered over some poor defensive errors by certain players; the Maroons will know how to target these weaknesses in this game, with the weight of possession integral for swinging momentum their way. In many ways, this effort is essential for the current Blues team establishing a new era of attitude, execution and dominance; they have long suggested that this is a new direction for the team and they need to capitalise. The training accident suffered by JT on throws the Maroons preparation for this game into further disarray, yet the Maroons have shown in the past how they can perform when they are under pressure. This game is very difficult to select on recent form due to the changes that have occurred; the Maroons are a different team and the incoming players will have a diverse impact on the outcome of this contest. Just how the Blues respond to this is still uncertain and this game feels similar to a Game 1 scenario. In the past 10 years, Game 2 has been a difficult game to predict; in 3 of the matches, the Maroons have won by 20 or more points, while 10-points has been the largest Blues victory recorded (2011). The average margin of victory sits at 12.6, thrown out by the dominating Maroons wins in 2008, 2010 & 2013. The average margin in favor of the Maroons is 17 points, while the Blues is 6 points. Of the games played at ANZ Stadium, the Blues have won 3 out of the 5 by an average margin of 5.3 points. With the Blues having the slight edge over the Maroons in all areas and coming off a strong win, they are difficult to go past. With that in mind and the series on the line, desperation is destined to be prominent in this game and ultimately, should lead a to a narrow margin of victory and a series win to the Blues.
Either Team Under 6.5 Points @ $2.40
Blues 1-12 @ $2.65