New South Wales has levelled the State of Origin series by comprehensively beating Queensland 44-12 in Perth on Sunday night.
The Blues’ superior kicking game and attacking prowess allowed it to overwhelmingly outscore a tired and error-riddled Queensland outfit, but the Maroons could well argue the result turned after a contentious decision by referee Ashley Klein shortly before half-time.
The Blues kept Queensland to 20 points or less for an incredible 14th consecutive game, with the Maroons’ attack potent early but simply starved of opportunity.
Queensland enjoyed just 29 per cent of the territory and 41 per cent possession and had just six tackles in the Blues’ 20-metre zone compared to its opponent’s 33.
Tries to Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster, both set up by fullback Kalyn Ponga, put Queensland ahead 12-8 approaching half-time.
Then Klein sent Kaufusi to the sin bin for 10 minutes after a series of infringements when the Blues were attacking Queensland’s line.
Klein ruled that Kaufusi lay over NSW prop Junior Paulo near the line for the best part of 10 seconds, and promptly ordered the Melbourne Storm back rower off the field.
On the following set the Blues scored in the corner through Brian To’o to take a 14-12 lead at the break.
But the defensive effort required with one less player on the field for the remainder of the 10-minute penalty depleted the Maroons’ energy levels and provided the Blues with the impetus to run rampant in the second half.
Maroons debutant Murray Taulagi dropped a towering Cleary bomb and the halfback then floated a pass for Daniel Tupou to score.
Another Cleary kick had Ponga trapped in goal before his halves partner Jarome Luai beat second-gamer Jeremiah Nanai’s tackle to score.
And soon after Matt Burton stripped Dane Gagai of possession, Cleary scored his first Origin try in his 12th game.
He wasn’t finished, stepping through two defenders to notch a double and continue Queensland’s pain in Perth after a 38-6 loss in 2019.
After winning game one 16-10 in Sydney, Queensland captain Cameron Munster conceded in a post-match interview that his side had been “poor”, particularly after being made to work so hard with a one-man disadvantage.
Blues skipper James Tedesco said many of his side’s additions had been instrumental in the convincing victory, with Jake Trbojevic, Matt Burton and halfback Nathan Cleary making a major difference.
Named man of the match, the star No.7 set up two tries, scored two of his own and caused Queensland constant grief with his kicking game to slowly wear down Billy Slater’s side.
Former Blues coach Phil Gould took issue with Klein’s decision, claiming the official should have put the Maroons on a team warning.
“I hate sin bins at the best of times, let alone in Origin,” he told the Nine Network.
“I don’t think there was ever a warning here. The fact that there are six-agains and not penalty kicks for goal means they are giving them away like Smarties.
“You don’t need it. It is Origin football.”
Game 3 will be played in Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, July 13.
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