New South Wales will be ready for their Sydney return. After beating Queensland 14-6 on their home turf in Game 1, the Blues suffered a demoralising 26-6 defeat in Game 2 at the Suncorp Stadium. The series heads back to the ANZ Stadium for the decisive third clash and promises to be another heated affair.
Game 2 saw a much improved Queensland side deal a major blow to NSW’s hopes of capturing the State of Origin shield for the first time since 2005. Similar to Game 1, the second contest was extremely fiery throughout and packed plenty of punch, as four players received punishment for a melee just after the halfway point.
Which team will claim the 2013 State of Origin championship?
The Maroons played with a greater sense of ruthlessness and excelled early in the game, echoing the Blues' performance from the opening match. Will New South Wales end an eight-year lull and finally emerge victorious over their rivals? Let's take a look at all the vital information.
Where: ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia.
When: Wednesday, July 17 at 6:00 a.m. ET
Watch: Fox Soccer Channel
Live Stream: Fox Soccer 2Go
Game 2 never threatened to end in a first NSW Brisbane win since 2005. Queensland notched a 14-0 lead after 17 minutes with tries from Sam Thaiday and Darius Boyd. A stunning Johnathan Thurston cut-out pass found its way to the chest of Boyd, who delivered his second try of the game with 48 minutes on the clock.
New South Wales’ defence battled doggedly during Game 1, but that determination and grit was nowhere to be seen in front of the Maroons faithful. Laurie Daley’s men enjoyed a quick start in the first encounter but had no answer to the partnership of Thurston and Cooper Cronk in Game 2. Instead, NSW’s game-plan descended into chaos as individuals fell to the lure of violence.
As reported on Yahoo!, the National Rugby League introduced firmer rules on punching after Paul Gallen and Nathan Myles’ brawl in Game 1. This didn’t deter both sides from entering the realm of fisticuffs once more in Game 2, as major punishments had to be dealt for the first time with the new rules in mind.
Queensland full-back Billy Slater appeared to elbow NSW halfback Mitchell Pearce after 53 minutes but tempers simmered for another sixty seconds. The Maroons were obviously ready to rile their opponents, and after 54 minutes, winger Brent Tate pushed Gallen after the NSW captain tackled Thurston.
NSW forward Trent Merrin took exception to the foul and jabbed Tate in the face, sparking a ruckus that ended with Tate and Hodges being sinbinned, while Merrin and Greg Bird were sent off for the visitors.
New South Wales need to exercise extremely physical tactics in the third encounter, but must do so without throwing punches. Gallen’s knuckle-crunching approach inspired his team to a defensively dominant win in the opening match, but with tighter restrictions now in place, NSW need to quickly regain their discipline.
Unfortunately for the Blues, Gallen’s withdrawal from the squad was confirmed by FOX Sports and could see the team begin with Roosters powerhouse Boyd Cordner.
Preparation for Game 3 has been far from perfect for NSW. The Daily Telegraph reports full-back Jarrad Hayne will miss the final game through injury, forcing the home side to utilise James McManus for the first time in four years.
While the Maroons possess excellent strength-in-depth and confidence heading into Game 3, NSW can halt any sense of momentum with a rerun of Game 1. A try from Hayne gave the home side an important boost inside the opening five minutes of the aforementioned contest and set Daley's side into an unbeatable rhythm. Although Maroons had chances that night, the Blues' spirit carried them through.
Michael Jennings was fantastic in Game 1 and made a number of important individual runs. The versatile player's speed is a real weapon for a team that has to put Queensland under pressure straight from the off if they are to claim the win.
Mitchell Pearce must improve his positional kicking if NSW are to keep the opposition's attacking power at bay, as the Blues will need as much time as possible to halt a Maroons front line that can smell blood.
An impressive victory in Game 2 gives Queensland the edge here. NSW have succumbed to poor discipline, key injuries and failed to restore parity when under pressure in the second contest. The pressure of trying to land a first State of Origin championship since 2005, in front of an expectant home crowd, will see the Blues play fearfully.
Maroons also have the experience and know-how of claiming victory in the big games.