The Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues have given themselves a chance to retain the Ampol State of Origin Shield they have held for the past two years after scoring a convincing 34-10 win against Queensland at ANZ Stadium tonight.
The Blues had been off the pace after losing the opening game 18-14 in Adelaide but they were a completely different outfit in front of their home town fans in Sydney to send the series to a Game Three decider in Brisbane next week.
Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler made the decision to change his halves after the loss in Adelaide and they paid dividends after five-eighth Cody Walker combined strongly with halfback and man of the match Nathan Cleary to put the Maroons to the sword.
Cleary didn’t have the best night with the boot for the opening game in Adelaide but he turned the screws against Queensland tonight. He came up with a couple of huge plays, including one in the first half when he kicked early in the tackle count to earn a repeat set for his team.
He finished the night with a line break, a line break assist and kicked the Maroons to death with 473 metres, two forced drop outs, a 40-20 and five conversions.
There wasn’t much between him and Walker. The Blues No.6 scored the opening try of the match, had a try assist and a line break.
Fullback James Tedesco was also impressive in his first outing as NSW captain, after scoring a try, producing two try assists, two line breaks, two line break assists and running for 238 metres.
Then there were the forwards. Payne Haas was elevated to the starting side and ran for 165 metres and came up with 35 tackles without a miss. It was an even more impressive performance when you consider he spent 10 minutes in the sin bin after a dust-up with Maroons lock Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.
His front row partner Daniel Saifiti was also strong with 127 metres, while Angus Crichton (124m), Dale Finucane (123m) and debutant Isaah Yeo (127m) also turned in strong games. To be fair, the Blues didn’t have a bad player on the park.
The Maroons suffered an early blow after five-eighth Cameron Munster was forced out of the game with concussion but took advantage of some favourable calls to work their way upfield.
Josh Papalii looked a chance of scoring until he was cut in half by Tyson Frizell but Queensland made the most of their next opportunity when Xavier Coates dived for the corner to set up a 4-0 lead.
The Blues finally got some relief with a couple of penalties and six again’s and they took advantage of the situation when Cody Walker got past Kurt Capewell to score. Nathan Cleary landed the conversion to take the lead 6-4 and from that moment the Blues never looked back.
A strong run from Angus Crichton paved the way for the Blues next try with captain James Tedesco stepping his way back inside past Ben Hunt to dive over the line. Cleary again landed the conversion for the Blues to take a 12-4 lead.
A mistake from Coates presented NSW with another opportunity and they were quick to capitalise with some quick hands along the backline laying the platform for Josh Addo-Carr to step his way back infield past two Queenslander defenders to score.
Cleary again nailed the conversion to put the Blues in control at 18-4 at halftime.
The Blues picked up where they left off shortly after play resumed when Jack Wighton muscled his way over the line and they extended their lead to 28-4 when Daniel Tupou dived over in the corner.
The Maroons pegged one back when Papalii barged his way over the line but there would be no miracle comeback this time around with Walker kicking for Addo-Carr to score the final try of the night and put an exclamation point on the win.