But it was his repeated shelling of the Maroons back three gravity-defying bombs (watch the huge torpedo in the video at the top of the page) – some of which went so high that they were out of the lights of the Optus Stadium – that impressed greats the most.
READ MORE: Referee under fire for match-turning moment
MATCH CENTER: Score, stats + video highlights
Andrew Johns suggested that some American talent scouts should be interested, with the incredible time and distance on Burton’s punts potentially making him a candidate to punt in the NFL.
“Is this going to America? Are the NFL scouts looking at this? Look how much it swings away,” Johns said effusively in Nine’s call of the game.
After the match, Burton told Nine’s Danika Mason that his debut was “incredible”.
Cleary, Burton combine for a magic attempt
“It was amazing getting the job done tonight, especially in front of my whole family and this amazing audience. It was surreal. It was unbelievable,” he said.
“It was a great week with all the boys. We had to get the job done.
“It means everything to put on this jersey in front of my whole family and with all those guys… and to share that with (the other Blues debutant, Siosifa) Talakai, too, it’s pretty special.”
NSW skipper James Tedesco was full of praise for the young Bulldogs star.
“He was one of our best I think. He did so well with the Bulldogs, in the centers for Penrith he was one of the best in the game. He gave some of those kicks that were hard to take,” said Cleary.
Highlights of 2022 State of Origin: NSW v QLD – Game II
After entering the locker rooms at halftime with a 14-12 lead, the Blues dominated the second half, forcing the Maroons back to the drawing board for a decider.
The second half went to Daniel Tupou, Jarome Luai, two to Cleary and Angus Crichton.
After a quiet game, Cleary was on form with the boot, kicking eight out of eight and scoring 24 points in a clinical performance that silenced his critics.
The 14-12 deficit at halftime was a perfect reflection of the quality of the match, the 39th minute sin binning by Felise Kaufusi gave the Blues a gift at halftime.
The Blues had five straight sets of fouls and camped on the Maroons line — which had stood steadfast thus far.
When Felise Kaufusi covered the ruck like a beach towel, triggering another restart, referee Ashley Klein sent Queensland’s number 12 straight to the bin.
Blues score right after sin bin
It was a costly mistake – Brian To’o crossed into the corner of the next game, and when Cleary pulled in the conversion, the Blues knocked out the sheds with a two-point lead.
Rather, it took 22 minutes before the first attempt was scored, but four followed in the 18 minutes before half-time.
Cleary’s shoe had opened the score on an 11th minute penalty, but it was… Kaufusi who crossed the line first after a controversial pass from Kalyn Ponga†
NSW immediately hit back when a Cleary-grubber found Burton, who showed beautiful hands to pick up the agile grubber and score.
Minutes later, it was Ponga who got things done, stepping through three defenders to make a break on the left. He released to Val Holmes, who put Cameron Munster in a gap for the second place of the Maroons.
NSW charged two Queensland kicks in the first 15 minutes, a chance was created with the first, but gave the ball back to the Maroons with the second.
NSW’s win brings a ravishing end to the 2022 series, with the Maroons making the decision at Suncorp Stadium on July 13.
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