Blues vs Maroons: State of Origin III preview Queensland drew first blood with a gutsy comeback win in game one in Brisbane but NSW will take all the momentum into the July 10 showdown after their crushing 38-6 defeat of the Maroons in game two in Perth.
Brad Fittler holds all the aces and it’s up to Kevin Walters to make the necessary adjustments to spoil a victorious homecoming for the Blues in front of their adoring fans.
Match: Blues v Maroons
Game 3 – Wednesday 10th July
Blues: David Klemmer was a late call-up to the squad on Wednesday after Tariq Sims was rubbed out of Origin III at the NRL judiciary the previous night. Mitchell Pearce was then called in to replace Nathan Cleary at halfback after the Penrith playmaker succumbed to his ankle injury. Brad Fittler has not indicated whether Klemmer will regain his starting berth from game one or if he will come off the bench as a straight swap for Sims. Clint Gutherson is the squad’s 18th man.
Maroons: Matt Gillett (groin) was forced to withdraw on Tuesday with his place to be taken by Ethan Lowe. The Maroons have announced Cameron Munster will play at fullback, debutant Corey Norman will play at five-eighth with Joe Ofahengaue starting at prop. Christian Welch will make his debut off the bench. Ethan Lowe and AJ Brimson are the reserves. Michael Morgan has passed his concussion protocols after he was on the receiving end of a late hit from Dragons forward Tariq Sims.
James Maloney was magnificent in the Blues’ game two triumph and it’s up to Cam Munster to return serve with a masterclass in the decider. The same goes for Daly Cherry-Evans after he had a quiet game in Perth. Mitchell Pearce has been called in for the Blues after Nathan Cleary was ruled out with an ankle injury. The battle of the playmakers will determine who wins the series.
For the Blues to win
The Blues can’t get ahead of themselves and get over-confident. Yes it was a comprehensive game two victory but it’s still only 1-1 in the series and they don’t get a head-start in the decider. If they get over the top of the Queensland forwards like they did in Perth, NSW should have too much speed and power with the likes of Tedesco, Trbojevic, Wighton, Ferguson and Addo-Carr always ready to sniff out a try.
For the Maroons to win
Will the Maroons be able to convince themselves the game two rout was an aberration or can we expect more of the same in Sydney? There’s no Smith or Thurston to get them out of jail, no Slater or Lockyer. But they do have Cameron Munster, who will have to deliver one of the greatest performances of his career if the Maroons are going to spring an upset and send the Blues home crying again.
James Tedesco didn’t score a try in game two but the NSW fullback’s hand-prints were all over the 32-point win. He ran for 209m (2nd most on the team) and also finished with two try assists, two line break assists and a line break. Josh Addo-Carr ran the most metres (215) by any player, while Maroons forward Matt Gillett topped the tackle count (47).
And another thing …
State of Origin continues to be one of the most popular events with Australians with its high television ratings and sell-outs. It was in 2015 that the attendance record was set with an average of 74,712 spectators over the three games, which included the 91,513 people who attended game two at the MCG. That record was almost broken by last year’s average of 73,520 over three games. The only other year it surpassed 70,000 was 2013, with the series average reaching a then-record 71,961.