The second State of Origin for 2018 has arrived in Sydney, with New South Wales a chance to lift the shield on Sunday night at ANZ Stadium.
LAST TIME OUT
In the last meeting at the MCG in game one, the Blues were dominant in the opening quarter, leading 8-0. With 15 minutes left in the first half Valentine Holmes scored an intercept try which had Queensland crawl back to 8-6. After the break, the Maroons had all the momentum and possession when a grubber kick on the last play saw Dane Gagai score in the 42nd minute, with Queensland then leading 12-8. A crucial error by Gagai with the Blues under pressure had them work their way down the field to score another four-pointer; only minutes later after a team linebreak, NSW scored again, this time off a towering bomb to winger Tom Trbojevic. With the scores 18-12 in the Blues’ favour, the possession swung with the Maroons having chances to level but errors and poor execution allowed NSW to capture another try off a linebreak to win 22-12.
Prop Regan Campbell-Gillard suffered a broken jaw in round 15 and is replaced by Matt Prior in the starting lineup. Tariq Sims returns to the reserves with Ryan James and Luke Keary also added.
Veteran fullback Billy Slater is set to play despite his hamstring problem. Dylan Napa still remains uncertain with an ankle complaint. Kalyn Ponga joins the interchange with Michael Morgan missing rest of the season with a bicep injury.
All is on the line (as usual in the second match of an Origin series), the Blues – like last year – will have the chance to win at home after winning game one. The fresh look side for New South Wales brought many positives out of their first outing, but as always Queensland’s experience in learning to finish strong in games will have the Blues faced with a whole new task. The Maroons were riddled with injuries and interruptions leading into the opening game of the series, Billy Slater returns at fullback for his last Origin series and dynamite youngster Kalyn Ponga will debut off the bench. Queensland will be better prepared for this game and ready to lay all of their expertise in winning big games out on the field which could unhinge the confidence of the young NSW outfit.
In any Origin match, there are many key battles with people looking at the showdown of five-eighths prior to kick off in game one. The return of the great Billy Slater in the backline for Queensland and the good Origin form of James Tedesco, it’s hard to look past the clash of the fullbacks to determine who will claim or extend this series.
Billy Slater has had an amazing Origin career and with it closing his side needs him more than ever. The champion fullback was unable to play in game one, pulling out late with an ongoing hamstring problem that he is carrying into this second fixture; Slater will produce brilliance and great composure even under injury concerns. Queensland’s number one will need an unreal performance to help this Maroons side with points and executing his trademark goal line defence to stop the Blues backs and Tedesco from tearing up the forwards. If Slater is to contain much of the pressure by NSW – whether out of their end in kicking or through the middle and create half chances for his other outside backs to feed off – it will go a long way to aiding the attacking problems seen in game one by Queensland.
Since switching to the Sydney Roosters this season, James Tedesco has gradually grown into the damaging force we had seen previously, though unlike at club level Teddy continues to dominate at Origin level. Man of the match in game one of the 2018 series, the fullback has been a focal point in breaking open the game on multiple occasions. A lot of what James has been successful at in Origin has been his ability to support his forwards, whether it be from their breaks or offloads, but one criticism of Tedesco’s play is knowing when to pass, which Slater excels at. If Tedesco backs up his groundbreaking performance in the opening match with the tackle breaking he possesses, while continuing to average 200 run metres, it will be near impossible for Queensland to contain.
The Blues are looking for just their second Origin shield in 13 years and first since 2014. The Maroons are playing for a 10th victory in 26 meetings at ANZ Stadium to send the series to a decider.
Maroons: 1 Billy Slater, 2 Valentine Holmes, 3 Will Chambers, 4 Greg Inglis (c), 5 Dane Gagai, 6 Cameron Munster, 7 Ben Hunt, 8 Dylan Napa, 9 Andrew McCullough, 10 Jarrod Wallace, 11 Gavin Cooper, 12 Felise Kaufusi, 13 Josh McGuire, Interchange: 14 Coen Hess, 15 Josh Papalii 16 Jai Arrow, 17 Kalyn Ponga Reserves: 18 Tim Glasby
Blues: 1 James Tedesco, 2 Tom Trbojevic, 3 Latrell Mitchell, 4 James Roberts, 5 Josh Addo-Carr, 6 James Maloney, 7 Nathan Cleary, 8 David Klemmer, 9 Damien Cook, 10 Matt Prior, 11 Boyd Cordner (c), 12 Tyson Frizell, 13 Jack De Belin, Interchange: 14 Paul Vaughan, 15 Jake Trbojevic, 16 Angus Crichton, 17 Tyrone Peachey, Reserves: 18 Tariq Sims, 19 Ryan James, 20 Luke Keary
THE IMPORTANT DETAILS
Date: Sunday 24th June
Venue: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 7:40 pm
Referee: Head: Gerard Sutton, Assist referee: Ashley Klein
WHO WILL WIN?
This is poised to be a classic Origin match, with a return to the Sunday night time at ANZ Stadium it will be must watch rugby league. The Blues are in the box seat after winning game one in Melbourne, with a dominant performance from a side boasting 11 debutants, while the Maroons welcome back Slater and new prodigy Ponga. The match will be a clean slate for Queensland as there were so many disruptions during their first camp in the lead up, now with a settled squad and additional in form players many will be expecting the visitors to be better in all areas, but mainly with taking their opportunities in attack where they struggled in the opening game. NSW will be out to replicate their discipline and aggression on and off the ball, the chance to win the series should be enough motivation for the side to control the tempo of the match from the outset. A blockbuster with two strong sides with minimal injuries will have this encounter go down to the wire; if Queensland can capitalise on their possession it could have the Blues rattled as they are still so fresh on the scene. The Origin shield is on the line and with that, the NSW forwards side should dominate while producing enough momentum for their speedy outside backs; even with the Maroons on top or in a close score the Blues’ confident young team will find a way to finish with a win.
Prediction: NSW Blues by 8