State of Origin: Game 2 Preview & Betting Tips
Queensland broke New South Wales hearts in game one – can they finish the job and win the series in game two from Perth?
New South Wales face a monumental task in game two – a must-win match where a loss could mean their breakthrough series win and all the confidence gained from it last year goes out the window while Queensland resume their seemingly customary position as Origin champs.
Let’s take a look at what went right and wrong for both states in the series opener, their changes since and the players to watch especially closely in the first-ever Origin in Perth.
Queensland Maroons v New South Wales Blues – Optus Stadium (Perth) 7:50pm
He may have been mocked mercilessly by New South Wales media before game one for his eccentric “Coach-Whisperer” inspired mentality, but Maroons mentor Kevin Walters played a coaching blinder in game one. Walters took the spotlight entirely upon himself and away from his players – with great effect. Take a look at the spine Walters fielded in game one for example:
1 – Kalyn Ponga: an undoubted superstar but starting his first Origin game at fullback with media speculating over whether he’s tempted to cross over to rugby union
6 – Cameron Munster: a big-game player however coming off arguably the worst performance of his career in the last big-game he featured in, where he made history to be sin-binned twice in Melbourne’s horror 2018 Grand Final
7 – Daly Cherry-Evans: a new skipper who only a few years ago was the Queensland public’s enemy number one after his infamous Titans backflip and coming into Origin short of game fitness after rushing back from ankle surgery
9 – Ben Hunt: a makeshift hooker out of position with a mixed history of performances in the biggest games.
And yet each member avoided pre-game scrutiny and proceeded to play key roles in the Maroons’ win.
Walters also maximised his bench usage. New South Wales’ greatest Origin coach Phil Gould would say for Origin sides you pick your bench first then your actual run-on side and the momentum shift created by Queensland’s interchange was undeniable.
Down 8-0, Walters changed his middles with Dylan Napa and Joe Ofahengaue and the move created immediate dividends. Napa took on the leadership role from the bench and delivered a strong performance, while Origin rookie “Big Joe” slotted in effortlessly to take pressure off his starting teammates.
David Fifita also enjoyed a promising Origin debut, able to focus on his own work and not overplay his hand on the edge. While New South Wales lost momentum through a bungled interchange strategy, Queensland made the most of theirs.
The had the luxury of introducing bench utility Moses Mbye with eight minutes left purely for fresh legs, compared to New South Wales using its counterpart Jack Wighton to try revamping a struggling attack, which backfired with an infamous intercept.
While Queensland have lost their legendary big four of Cameron Smith, Greg Inglis, Billy Slater and Jonathan Thurston in recent times, one retirement which left its own unique void was Darius Boyd and his superb try-scoring ratio at Origin level.
Yet in Dane Gagai the Maroons have found their next Origin tryscoring specialist. With a double in game one, Gagai now has as many tries (11) in his last 11 Origin games as he does his last 92 NRL appearances. Gagai was Man of the Match game one and having a proven gamebreaker in their backline is a huge advantage for the Maroons.
Queensland also have a noted continuity advantage – their only selection changes were injury enforced to bench props Jai Arrow and Ofahengaue. Walters has played it safe in calling upon ex-Origin players Tim Glasby and Jarrod Wallace to step in.
Melbourne prop Christian Welch is highly unlucky to not get a call-up but Glasby and Wallace’s experience arguably strengthens the Maroons bench. It also may be a nod towards what Queensland are expecting game two to be. Neither Glasby nor Wallace have the sudden explosiveness of Ofahengaue (Welch is the most similar candidate of the trio) but they each boast high endurance and offload ability.
With New South Wales not having a traditional prop on the bench, the ability to play increased minutes through the middle may be a key factor.
Queensland’s halves combination of Cameron Munster and captain Daly Cherry-Evans had outstanding performances for their club sides last round and will also be better with the experience of now playing with makeshift hooker Ben Hunt.
DCE’s directional play allows Munster to play his favoured run-first style, and as seen in his Oddschecker Player of the Week effort against Newcastle, his ability to play a killer ball as he engages defenders right at the defensive line is among the best in the sport. The Maroons are yet to pull the trigger on a genuine wraparound play featuring Munster linking up with a free flowing Kalyn Ponga – will we see it in Perth?
The Maroons also got their playmaking balance spot on – DCE had 55 possessions and Munster 52. Compare that to the Blues where Nathan Cleary had 52, Cody Walker 38 and Jack Wighton 7. This spread ensured New South Wales couldn’t focus on one particular player to inhibit the Maroons’ attack.
Overall this is a confident, well-drilled Maroons side who have a strong mental edge over their opposition.
NEW SOUTH WALES
One area Walters will not claim this Origin week, however, is the spotlight – the highest of high beams are squared on New South Wales coach Brad Fittler. In making seven changes from game one, Fittler is rolling the dice and backing his revamped team to deliver – or else there may be a significant price to pay.
The most controversial call is dropping Latrell Mitchell. The centre had a nightmare game one where his counterpart Will Chambers scored a decisive points victory over him, however, the 21-year-old Roosters superstar is an undeniable matchwinner when on song.
To decide Mitchell is not worth the risk in favour of maligned game one utility Jack Wighton – who hasn’t started a match at centre since 2014 – is extremely bold, yet Fittler and the selectors wouldn’t have reached the decision on a whim. Wighton possesses a ball-playing and kicking game far greater than his rushed efforts from the series opener and will draw confidence from his coach’s show of faith in his ability.
Josh Morris also joins Mitchell as a centre culled, the Sharks veteran was first tryscorer in game one and had one of the better Blues performances but has made way for Manly’s Tom Trbojevic. “Turbo Tom” has been brilliant for the Sea Eagles at club level when fit in 2019 and will no doubt relish being back in the Origin arena.
Winger Nick Cotric is out with an ankle injury meaning New South Wales return to Blake Ferguson. The Eels winger at one stage looked a longshot to ever wear a Blues jersey again after off-field issues and does have the X-Factor few other NSW backs possess. He had a blistering season start at his new club before a drop in form, but with his massive frame and leaping ability, he’s the closest like-for-like replacement available for Cotric.
The new halves pairing of Panthers James Maloney and Nathan Cleary means an Origin reunion of the 2018 series-winning combo in a move designed to get the best out of halfback Cleary. His pairing with Cody Walker never looked convincing with the Bunnies five-eighth struggling to get involved offensively – this won’t be an issue for the veteran Maloney.
The pair are proven in Origin and with their club side in impressive form, the Blues are likely to pose far more questions of Queensland’s defence than they did in game one. The pair also have experience playing alongside fullback James Tedesco and hooker Damien Cook, an invaluable bonus amidst the other selection upheaval.
David Klemmer is a massive loss in the middle, NSW’s enforcer is out with a wrist fracture and results in his clubmate Daniel Saifiti earning an Origin debut. Fittler was adamant in the Newcastle prop to get the nod – it’s an attempted like-for-like swap but Klemmer’s leadership and grunt are almost irreplaceable.
Saifiti will have no time for easing into Origin – alongside Paul Vaughan he’s one of only two specialist props in the team and he must lay a territorial platform immediately for the Blues.
The Blues’ bench is also significantly reshuffled – Payne Haas is out with injury with Tariq Sims his replacement. Sims isn’t a traditional prop but he’s got the mongrel and engine to blast through the middle and after an impressive Origin run in 2018, the Dragon firebrand will be tasked with ensuring a smooth prop rotation with Vaughan and Saifiti.
Angus Crichton was the only game one bench member with Origin experience but despite a large stint, the Rooster edge forward was somewhat quiet and so finds himself omitted. In his place comes Wade Graham to provide the leadership from the bench which the Blues lacked in game one.
The backrower would normally be a guarantee for Origin selection but a nine-month injury layoff from a knee operation sees the Shark captain having only two relatively brief interchange appearances at club level under his belt for his Origin return. His ball-playing ability though is a great weapon to change things up however and he'll lead by example whenever he’s given the chance to do so.
There remains the chance of a late selection switch-up too for the Blues. Saifiti may be moved to the bench with lock Jake Trbojevic shifted to front-row and debutant Dale Finucane to move from the bench to 13.
Finucane has played in five Grand Finals so is hardly lacking in big-game experience and given Trbojevic and his ability to play 80-minute matches for fun, the potential shift would allow Saifiti some breathing room before entering Origin’s cauldron.
This match shapes as Fittler’s defining moment as an Origin coach. A win would be a huge vindication for his selection beliefs and embolden a New South Wales culture still finding its way to its previous strengths after Queensland’s long domination. A loss though and the critics already sharpening their knives will have plenty to work with dissecting why Fittler responded the way he did to a narrow loss in the first place.
- This will be the 11th Origin played a neutral venue (including the 1987 match in California), NSW having the slight edge in these encounters with a 6-4 record.
- Neutral venues also historically mean tighter than usual games – the highest win margin from either state here is only twelve points and the average winning margin is 7.9 points.
- In Origin’s three-game series history, the side winning game one has won 74% of the series.
- New South Wales have made seven or more changes to a side eight times, winning only three times in the match following.
- The Blues have never won a series when making seven or more team changes mid-campaign.
Queensland - $2.10* (BetEasy)*Odds subject to change