PERTH: Queensland’s lack of muscle at the start of State of Origin games has become a concerning trend that coach Kevin Walters will need to fix before the season decider in Sydney on July 10.
The smarts and class of James Maloney, James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic aside, the NSW starting middles dominated the first half of the Blues’ 38-6 annihilation of the Maroons in Perth.
The Blues’ 18-6 lead at the break was always going to be a bridge too far for the Maroons after their starting props were dominated from the outset.
The statistics told a compelling tale after 40 minutes with NSW’s Daniel Saifiti (68m from five runs) Jake Trbojevic (89m from 10) and Dale Finucane (74m from eight) well ahead of the Maroons starting trifecta of Dylan Napa (27m from four runs), Josh Papalii (33m from four) and Josh McGuire (53m from seven).
The Maroons were lacking in energy and thrust and there were some lazy mistakes in attack and defence by Papalii and Napa that proved costly.
Finucane, on debut, was enormous and Trbojevic took it upon himself to be the NSW forward leader.
The Maroons will need their starting middles to start taking more ownership of the ruck.
They need to find it within themselves and quickly.
Lethargy does not cut it at this level.
Napa is yet to prove himself as a starting prop at Origin level. Broken wrist or not, he was a disappointment in Perth. Papalii has started both games this year slowly for Queensland.
The Maroons lost game one in 2018, and arguably the series, in the opening half hour in Melbourne.
NSW dominated the early exchanges of Origin I this year.
While Queensland fought back from 8-0 behind to win at Suncorp Stadium, in Origin football comebacks are few and far between.
With Jai Arrow out for the rest of the Origin series and Joe Ofahengaue not having played since the series opener, the Maroons have few options.
Queensland have won the last two deciders at ANZ Stadium in 2008 and 2013 so they will not feel as though it is beyond them.
Walters will be wondering how he can give his side the attacking punch that Maloney, Wade Graham and Tom Trbojevic brought to the table in Perth for Brad Fittler’s team.
The addition of those three genuine footballers has given the Blues attack so many more dimensions.
The Maroons are relying on Cameron Munster and Kalyn Ponga far too much.
Those two stars can’t do it on their own.
More will be needed from captain Daly Cherry-Evans himself in the decider.
He was quiet in Perth and is yet to nail his running game since returning from ankle surgery.
The Blues started toying with the Maroons towards the end of their victory in what was a warning shot across the bow about what may be in store in Sydney.
Result: Blues 38 (Tyson Frizell, Josh Addo-Carr 2, Tom Trbojevic 3 tries; Nathan Cleary 2, James Maloney 3; Maloney 2 pens); Maroons 6 (Will Chambers try; Kalyn Ponga con).
Maroons rake Ben Hunt and forward Josh McGuire tackling Blues forward Dale Finucane
during game two of the State of Origin series at Optus Stadium in Perth, Australia, last night.
The Blues won 38-6 to square the series.
Blues forward Tyson Frizell and playmaker James Maloney taking out Maroons fullback
Kalyn Ponga during game two of the State of Origin series.