Series might be level but champions have surged past NSW in the race for the title.
The difference in experience at State of Origin level was never more evident than what it was when Darius Boyd crossed for his first try of the night.
While it was well-constructed play, orchestrated by Jonathan Thurston who returned to form just in time for Maroons’ fans, it was indicative of where it all went wrong for the Blues.
In the first game of the series the Blues’ ability to defend on their line was the difference between a win and a loss, especially in the second half as the Maroons tried to eek out a win with their now patented comeback.
But all of that changed in Game Two as the Blues wilted under early pressure and the overwhelming penalty county, which was justified or day-light robbery, depending on which side of the Tweed River your allegiances lie.
Queensland showed the hallmarks that have made their recent seven year winning streak a reality besides their playing talent – desperation, desire and diligence.
Even when up comfortably late in the game, if a stray pass hit the deck, a Maroon jersey was the first one to be wrapped around it.
After a lackluster first game, Thurston was again sensational in casting a spell over the Blues’ defenders two wide of the ruck.
Sam Thaiday provided sensational go forward in the early going and captalised to get the raucous Maroons crowd into the game after he scored the first try after just two minutes.
Corey Parker provided an attacking spark and creativity when taking the ball forward and Cameron Smith’s kicking game, especially early in the tackle count and from dummy-half, kept his side on the front foot.
Conversely all of the players who starred in the Blues’ win in Sydney went quiet when they were needed the most.
Skipper Paul Gallen, who is spiritual leader of the side, was off the pace and is in doubt for the third game after leaving Suncorp Stadium in a ‘moon boot’ after noticeably hobbling at the end of the game.
In the halves, James Maloney and Mitchell Pearce provided direction in attack in Game One, but their combined compass went awry in the return game.
Too often their options at the end of a set, when the Blues were actually able to make it to the sixth tackle, was not the right one or was poorly executed.
So often the Maroons potent back three were gifted a running start after they fielded NSW’s kicks in the full – something that happened rarely in Game One.
Nathan Merritt could soon be put in the same pile as Akuila Uate as the South Sydney winger looked out of his depth defensively in the pressure-cooker environment that is ‘Lang Park’
Yes his centres inside of him needed to do a better job marking up on their men, but too often Merritt raced up out of the line, creating the space through which the Maroons scored early.
Case in point of the centres being out of position, was the penalty given away in the first half by Michael Jennings after he put a late hit on Thurston.
The Roosters centre should have been nowhere near Thurston in the middle of the field to put a hit on him in the first place.
Josh Dugan largely re-payed the faith for NSW coach Laurie Daley not punting him from the side after being out at a pub with the now disgraced Blake Ferguson.
In just his second Origin, Dugan was solid under the high ball and ran the ball on kick returns with purpose, one of the few Blues players to try to hit and break the Maroons’ defensive line.
NSW’s forwards were disappointing with Gallen’s apparent injury being coupled with surely a less than 100 per cent Anthony Watmough.
However, Luke Lewis and sub Andrew Fifita can hold their heads high as they provided both go forward and options in attack when they got their hands on the ball.
While most of the players were putting on a brave face, the scandal involving Ferguson has to have had an impact, more than the side was letting on.
But no matter how you look at it, Queensland schooled the Blues in how to play at Origin intensity.
NSW might have also led 14-0 at half-time in the first clash, but Queensland won the second half 6-0 and they carried that momentum into Game Two as they hit the ground running.
Be wary the Maroons side with its back to the wall.
This loss was so comprehensive and the fact it’s seven years since NSW last won, the mental scarring for all players not just the payers who have been a big part of those losing series, will be massive to overcome in the next three weeks.