With the Blues winning their second State of Origin series since 2005, the win was built on new beginnings, as much as a better game plan.
Now, with game three only a week away, Thomas Craig looks back at Origin game two, and explains how it came down to several key moments.
State of Origin II – crucial Penalty Try ruling
Blues captain Boyd Cordner was awarded a controversial penalty try, after James Maloney made a kick in behind the Queensland defensive line. Queensland Maroons player Ben Hunt tackled Cordner without the ball, and was ruled to have prevented a certain try – only the second, in State of Origin history.
Hunt made the tackle on Cordner as the ball with kicked behind him and had no intentions of letting Cordner pass by; to probably score. The ruling from the in-goal official was instant and harsh. It has drawn plenty of criticism and also earned some praise, for it’s accuracy and discussion on how it impacted on the series outcome.
The Rugby League Law Book states in section 6-3d: the Referee (or Review Officials) may award a penalty try if, in his opinion, a try would have been scored but for the unfair play of the defending team. A penalty try is awarded between the goal posts irrespective of where the offence occurred.’
The Boyd/Cordner penalty try incident was a key moment in the game, as it put NSW ahead by two points before half time. Not a game changer, but it showed how desperate the Maroons defence was, and how the single actions of one player, can cost the entire team.
Ben Hunt second half fumble costs plenty
Ben Hunt knocked the ball on, after a strong tackle from Blues prop Paul Vaughn in the 47th minute. Hunt; who had come under criticism after only making three runs in Origin game one, knocked the ball on just 12 metres away from his own Queensland goal line. The following set resulted in a Latrell Mitchell try.
The Ben Hunt fumble was negligible. Billy Slater and captain Greg Inglis protested with officials, but on replay from the far side of the ground, the small fumble is clear. Some will point out that he was lifted, and dumped hard which might have caused even the best players to lose grip of the ball.
However, it was a key moment in State of Origin II, as the resulting Mitchell try was converted, giving the Blues an eight point lead, with around 30 minutes to go.
Even while any player can fumble the odd ball, to do so on your own line, is a soul destroying moment for your team mates. The Maroons will want to remedy those little mistakes, before they can face a hugely confident Blues team.
No Penalty Try given to Queensland
In nearly a mirror incident to the Boyd Cordner first half penalty try, Queensland were disallowed a penalty try of their own. In the 68th minute, immediately following a Kylan Ponga line break, Ben Hunt put a chip kick in behind the Blues line. It appeared to be perfectly placed for second rower Gavin Cooper.
Cooper was looking to run onto the ball, however Blues centre James Roberts dragged Cooper away slightly. That led Cooper to fall over, and appeal for a Penalty try. The on-field referee went to the video referee, and he asked the bunker to rule ‘if it was a possible penalty try?’
A professional foul has been handed to James Roberts for his obstruction with Gavin Cooper. Is NSW in trouble without Roberts? #9News
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— Nine News Gold Coast (@9NewsGoldCoast) June 24, 2018
The video referee ruled that there was no reasonable chance that Gavin Cooper would have reached the ball first. And the fact it was so far out from the line, magnified the doubt.
However, the video referee found that there was a professional foul. When a professional foul is ruled it means that the perpetrator gets sinbinned (sent off for 10 minutes). This was a key moment, as it put the Blues down to 12 men. Additionally it also meant no penalty try, that, would have put Queensland two points ahead as the conversion would have been right in front.
Reaction on social media was mixed; some pointing to a ‘hollywood act’ from Cooper. Others wanting a tit-for-tat reaction, due to the first half penalty try. What it did highlight, was how tight the contest was – head coach Brad Fittler will not want any of his men to be taken from the field. The Blues might have escaped with it one time. But a second time, it could cost them big time.
Queensland goal kicking let them down badly
In the past five years, six State of Origin games have come down to goal kicking. Typically, Queensland have been better at goal kicking than the Blues. With Queensland having all time point scorer Jonathon Thurston retiring, there was a large void to be filled in the goal kicking department.
In the Queensland 17, there were no regular goal kickers for their club side who hit above 70%. Kayln Ponga took the most conversions out of any Maroon playing in State of Origin side for Queensland. However Ponga was on the bench, and was debuting in his first Origin game. That resulted in Valentine Holmes being preferred goal kicker for Queensland, despite not taking a conversion at all for the Cronulla Sharks this season.
Like many Origin games, this game came down to the goal kicking. Blues kicker James Maloney kicked 3/3 conversions, whilst Holmes only kick 1/3 conversions. The result came down to 18-14. Clearly, if Queensland had kicked all their conversion attempts the scores obviously would have been level and set the game to golden point.
As such, Queensland lacking a competent regular goal kicker (at club level) was a major factor in State of Origin II and ultimately resulted in a Blues victory. The change needed by the head coach Kevin Walters is, to select a consistent kicker who can maximize all opportunities given them – if they are to save some face, in game three next week.
Several key moments helped the NSW Blues take the game, and the series win. How both teams motivate themselves, will prove whether the Blues can take a rare ‘clean sweep’ coming up, in game three.
State of Origin III is scheduled for Wednesday July 11, at Suncorp Stadium.
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