Queenland's convincing 26-6 win in Game II of the 2013 State of Origin will have reaffirmed to many that the Maroons are on course to remain the dominant force in this latest series.
Following New South Wales' opening 14-6 win and several previous close series, many had begun to favour the Blues finally landing their first series win since way back in 2005, although Game II has now dented many of those notions.
Maroons' coach, Mal Meninga, mentioned how this streak of seven Origin shields leaves his roster desperate to avoid being associated with the team that finally relinquishes one.
Meninga spoke to ABC.net, saying:
Certainly when you get in the back end of your career fear of failure is a determining factor to get yourself motivated personally.
Then you've got the young ones, they want to prove themselves, that's another motivating force.
His side certainly remain favourites, but travelling to Stadium Australia, where Queensland have lost their previous three fixtures, will certainly draw the teams even closer together. Here's a look at some last minute predictions for this mouthwatering contest—after a quick recap of the games so far:
Game I Highlights
Game II Highlights
Blues to Storm to an Early Lead
Sure to be willed on by the majority of a capacity crowd of 80,000, expect New South Wales to emerge from the dressing rooms inspired and possibly catch Queensland cold during the early proceedings.
The Blues were imposing in Game I, capitalising on their size advantage and power in the forwards. They scored after five minutes and registered all of their 14 points by the interval and a similar burst in this decider would not be at all surprising.
Mitchell Pearce Fires Early but Fades
Much of the Blues' hopes rest on halfback, Mitchell Pearce. If he's firing, he will launch countless attacks, dictate the tempo and influence his side's intensity. If he's off his game, his team will appear predictable and struggle to unlock the Queensland defence.
Expect him to start off in impressive fashion and demonstrate his full repertoire of skill before the enormity of the challenge and the level of opposition begin to get on top of him.
Would another series loss signal the end for Pearce in Origin series?
Johnathan Thurston Puts in a Man of the Match Performance
These matches could well pan out to be a case of the Blues' pack against the Maroons' back division and be decided by how well each team neutralises and counters the other's main threat.
New South Wales' pack could well be dominant early on but, once their early adrenaline starts to fade, expect Johnathan Thurston to start working his magic.
The Blues had little answer for his precise kicking in Game II. Look for him to pin his opposition back before instigating a couple of lightning-paced attacks for the likes of Darius Boyd and Brent Tate to finish off.
Maroons Fight Back to Make It 8 in a Row
Unlike in Game I, the Maroons have everything on the line in this contest and will mount a far greater challenge if facing a similar deficit at halftime.
As Meniga pointed out, no player wants to be associated with a first loss since 2005, a thought process that will surely drive his side on. At the same time, memories of several close losses and a huge crowd expectancy could weigh heavy on the Blues and may cast doubt into their thinking at some stage.
Despite a ferocious start, a combination of desire, electric skill from their backs and some nerves from the hosts could well lead to yet another win for the Maroons.
Predicted Final Score:
New South Wales 18 - 22 Queensland