Schick Hydro Preview: XXXX Queensland Maroons v New South Wales VB Blues
Holden State of Origin Game Two
The Blues travel to Suncorp Stadium looking to keep the 2016 Holden State of Origin Series alive after a thrilling 6-4 win to the Maroons in Game One.
New South Wales coach Laurie Daley will be desperate to force Queensland into a decider, with the Blues facing a 10th Origin Series loss in 11 years if they come away from Brisbane on the wrong side of the ledger.
Watch out Maroons: It is said that there is nothing more dangerous than a desperate man with nothing to lose and the Blues have 17 primed to throw everything at Queensland in order to keep the series alive. There are a host of match-winners who can trouble the Maroons if they successfully throw caution to the wind but few match the destructive skill set of prop Andrew Fifita. NSW looked their most dangerous when Fifita came on in the second half and disrupted the resolute Queensland defensive line and then backed that up with 187 metres, six tackle busts and three offloads against the Maroons' Cowboys contingent for the Sharks in Round 14. He's hardly your typical Origin front-rower which is exactly why he shapes as such a difficult customer for a tiring Maroons defence to contain.
Watch out Blues: Suncorp Stadium is a scary prospect for New South Wales. Queensland have outscored the Blues 269-122 in the past 10 State of Origin clashes at the venue. The Blues' inability to score at the ground has been on show in recent history, with NSW scoring eight points or less in five of these matches – none more famous than their 52-6 loss in Game Three last year. The mental scars from that drubbing have to be still haunting Laurie Daley's men as they return to the venue for the first time. The Blues will have to find some attacking spark if they are to outscore a Maroons team averaging almost 27 points a game at Suncorp Stadium. A hostile Queensland crowd will do their best to ensure this doesn't happen, and if the Blues struggle early, we could see a repeat of past blowouts.
Key Match-up: Johnathan Thurston v James Maloney. Two of the better players from Game One go head-to-head in a battle that will likely define the outcome of Game Two. Thurston's kicking game in Game One kept Queensland in the game as the Maroons came under serious pressure in the second half. Maloney had touches of brilliance, setting up Boyd Cordner for a try and producing a try-saving tackle in the second half that kept New South Wales in the game. The 2016 season has seen both excel in different areas. Thurston leads Maloney in try assists, with his 13 for the season overshadowing Maloney's six. But it's Maloney's running game that has seen him dominate this season, with the Sharks' five-eighth making three line breaks and running for almost 1,000m in 2016. Maloney will need to find this running game if he is to break Queensland open up the middle of the park and bring the Blues' forwards into the game.
History: Played 106; Maroons 57, Blues 47, Drawn 2. The Maroons come to Suncorp Stadium looking to secure their 10th Origin series win in 11 years. Overall, Queensland have won 18 Origin series to New South Wales' 12, with the Maroons holding a distinct scoring advantage – leading 1,768-1,622. Queensland have won eight of the past 10 clashes in Brisbane with an average winning margin of 20 points. New South Wales' last Origin victory at Suncorp Stadium came in Game One of 2014, with the 12-8 win helping to secure the Blues' first Origin series win since 2005. Greg Inglis and Darius Boyd are the two greatest try-scorers in Origin history with 17 and 16 respectively.
What are the odds: Queensland $1.54, NSW $2.55. Sportsbet punters are taking a liking to the big price offered for NSW and there are actually slightly more individual bets placed on the Blues. Having said that, one third more money has been placed on Queensland in the head-to-head market. As far as number of individual bets are concerned, it's almost split 50-50 with many punters having some little nibbles at the big price on offer for NSW.
The most popular winning margin is Queensland 13-plus with support for the Blues coming at the line, where they're receiving 4.0 start at $1.91. In the first try-scorer market Maroons winger Corey Oates is holding more money than the entire New South Wales team combined. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Match Officials: Referee: Gerard Sutton; Assistant Referee: Ben Cummins; Touch Judges: Brett Suttor and Nick Beashel; Senior Review Official: Bernard Sutton; Review Officials: Luke Patten and Ashley Klein.
Televised: Channel Nine – Live from 7.30pm.
How we see it: Given their recent dominance and their record at home on paper it is hard to see anything but a Queensland victory but it will be the Maroons' mental application that will be most telling. The Blues are desperate and will start fast and hope to maintain it for 80 frantic minutes, the challenge for Queensland is to stem that early onslaught and land some counter blows. The team that has lost Game One has won Game Two in 10 of the past 16 Origin series but all signs point to a Queensland victory and a series win. Queensland by 10 points.
Queensland are in good hands with Maroons coach Kevin Walters having a dream debut in charge, taking off where Mal Meninga left off. Walters has been forced to make just one change to his team for Game Two with veteran prop Nate Myles succumbing to a knee injury.
The ever-reliable Jacob Lillyman will come onto the bench for the Maroons and Brisbane prop Josh McGuire receives his starting debut for Queensland.
NSW took a gamble in Game One with some selection decisions that fell just short but Daley has stuck to his guns and selected a largely unchanged side for Game Two.
Second-row forward Boyd Cordner's foot injury means he will miss the match, and ironically the man brought in for Cordner will also miss the clash, with Wade Graham copping a one-game suspension for his high tackle on Johnathan Thurston.
His bad luck is another man's fortune with Dragons star Tyson Frizell set to make his Blues debut off the bench.
Another Blues debutant for Game Two will be Cronulla utility Jack Bird off the bench after Josh Morris was ruled out with a groin injury and Dylan Walker was promoted to the starting team at right centre.
Is this the dawn of a new Queensland dynasty under Kevin Walters or will NSW find something from within to keep the series alive and force a decider in Blues territory?
This article first appeared on NRL.com