‘NSW Is Unraveling’: The Costly Blunders And Cleary Trick That Burned Blues

State of Origin is about moments and on Wednesday night it was Queensland that owned them.

Three plays in particular – clambering in defense and a bit of magic from Cameron Munster – were defining moments that Billy Slater pointed out in his post-match press conference.

Brad Fittler pointed to some late missed opportunities in his and, more broadly, slowing the ruck as the difference between the two sides.

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Skipper James Tedesco echoed those concerns, telling reporters that Queensland “didn’t allow New South Wales” to clear space around the ruck and play with the “freedom” they wanted.

Of course, frustration ensued and in those moments that could have proved pivotal in turning the tables on the Maroons, the Blues instead rushed to play and gave up unforced errors.

There were two moments – between the 63rd and 65th minutes – that summed up how that extra frustration led directly to poor decision-making under pressure.

Take Damien Cook’s wayward pass in the 63rd minute, picked up by Cameron Munster as the Blues squandered an important opportunity to attack the Queensland line.


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The Blues fell short. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

Cook sometimes threatened with a few direct runs from the dummy half, but was otherwise guilty of trying too hard, firing left and then right as if he had too many options in his mind.

That was why the Rabbitohs rake ran out and eventually turned the ball around in a superb attacking field position.

†[An] terrible pass here, straight to Munster,” Fox Leagues Warren Smith said in comment.

“New South Wales [is] unravel. A wild pass from Cook.”

Cooper Cronk said it was a simple case of Cook “overplaying his hand” and thereby “putting himself under pressure”.

Felise Kaufusi coughed up the ball shortly afterwards and gave the Blues another chance to press the Maroons line, but again New South Wales panicked under pressure.

This time it was Cameron Murray who offloaded with Daly Cherry-Evans lurking and the Queensland halfback jumped as the Blues lamented another costly turnover.

“Again, forcing the issue and turning New South Wales around,” Smith said.

“That’s because Queensland is forcing the problem, while Queensland is frustrating New South Wales,” added Braith Anasta.

“They panic and think they have to score on every game.”


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There were also a couple of controversial phone calls for New South Wales fans and players to point out as they dissected where things went wrong on Wednesday.

While the Blues’ efforts were quashed by the umpires, there were instances when it was just further evidence that New South Wales was its own worst enemy.

Make the decision to ignore Junior Paulo’s effort in the closing stages of the first half.

Murray was ruled to have been stopped in the defensive line, denying Patrick Carrigan a fair chance to stop the Blues prop.

All the Rabbitohs lock had to do was run through the line, but it didn’t—yet another example of the Blues not running when they needed it most.

“When you go to the line like that, Cameron Murray had to go ahead and give Carrigan a fair shot at Paulo,” Smith said in the commentary.

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Tedesco also had a try that stopped late in the first half after Daniel Tupou threw the ball to the Blues fullback.

While Tedesco was visibly frustrated when Ashley Klein called the play back, Anasta saw no reason why the Blues should feel hurt by that call in particular.

“Is it ahead? Yes, it is,” he said.

“A great call from the referee.”

There was slightly more disagreement over the decision to award Daly Cherry-Evans’ second-half attempt, with replays that seem to show that Junior Paulo may have been stopped in the scrum

“Paulo is held back a little bit, but I’m not sure it’s enough to reject the attempt,” Anasta said.

“Usually the front rower covers that space and he plays this game every week Paulo, he knows he has to let go. Collins has his arm on his shoulder. You have to look closely at that.”

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While Origin is often defined by moments, Queensland’s game plan as a whole must be recognized, which was not just a simple product of slowing the ruck.

The Maroons’ hasty defenses, and in particular their work on Blues halfback Nathan Cleary, also choked New South Wales in unusually poor sets.

There were a number of ‘moments’ where Cleary made the wrong move in the final tackle, either kicking too deep or not taking up the space on offer as the Maroons fell back.

Talk about SEN 1170s ‘The Captain’s Run’Queensland assistant coach Cameron Smith revealed that there was a lot of talk in the sheds about targeting Cleary during halftime.

Nathan Cleary had been heavily attacked. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“He’s a great kicker under pressure because he works hard on that part of his game,” said Smith.

“There was good kick pressure in the first half (from Queensland). In the second half, Queensland came to him when he kicked the ball.

“Which meant the back three for Queensland, especially Kalyn Ponga, were able to get the ball into a really good fielding position. Queensland could go straight from defense to attack. We had to (to work on Cleary).”

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