Queensland’s 2-point victory over the Blues on Wednesday told an all too familiar tale for the New South Welshmen – the Maroons just know how to win the tight matches.
But will it be a case of different year, same result for Daley and his men as they venture to Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium for Game II?
See the ‘Five Key Points’ to come out of the Blues’ two-point defeat on Wednesday night.
1. Maloney showed plenty of class in his Origin return
Sharks ‘6’ James Maloney was close to the Blues’ best in attack on Wednesday night, partnering with former Roosters teammate Boyd Cordner to lay on the only New South Wales try.
Maloney’s kicking game was crucial at key moments, and the five-eighth managed to force a handful of repeat sets to have his side in great attacking position.
And, if not for Maloney’s try-saving effort to send Queensland’s Dane Gagai into touch, the Blues and the game’s result would have been put to bed well before the 80th minute.
Backing the efforts of each of the 17 Blues on show, Maloney said he hopes to again partner Adam Reynolds in the halves in Game II.
2. Captain Gallen lead from the front, but not to our surprise.
Sharks and NSW Captain Paul Gallen was again inspirational in his work, strong in both attack and defence.
15 carries for 125 metres, with 26 tackles to boot, Gallen was in the thick of things in his time spent on the field.
The skipper took a breather in the second period, before he was thrust into the contest late as the Blues side looked for points.
Some critics this morning suggesting Daley’s use of the Captain was less than what was required of the inspirational leader.
3. Under-used Fifita an asset set to be put to work in Brisbane.
Andrew Fifita was thrown into the contest late on Wednesday night, told to make an immediate impact – and that he did.
A barnstorming carry to return the ball from a Maroons drop-out had the Blues on the front foot, and the Sharks prop looked likely to trouble at every time the ball was in his hands.
4. Gillett proves to the best man Queensland can get.
Queensland’s Matt Gillett was again strong last night, solidifying his place as a genuine Origin workhorse.
10 hit ups and 34 tackles – including some crucial goal-line stops – was enough to see Gillett take Man of the Match honours, following on from his great form at club level.
5. Is Carty the right man for the job or will Bird swoop into camp?
Following last night’s close slog at ANZ Stadium, the NSW Blues coaching staff may be forced to look at the make-up of their bench.
Aside from the big impact from forwards Fifita and David Klemmer, the potential inclusion of attacking edge backrower Bryce Cartwright – or the Sharks’ Jack Bird in a utility role – could pay dividends right when the side needs it most – down 1-0 in the best of 3 series.