NSW skipper Boyd Cordner had a simple message for his teammates after they found a way to lose a heartbreaking 18-16 Origin Two in Sydney on Wednesday night: let the pain of that loss burn for now, then recover and use it to come back stronger for the July 12 decider at Suncorp.
The NSW capitulation after a dominant 16-6 first half bordered on baffling as they pushed frantic passes and gifted Queensland attacking field position through unnecessary errors and penalties.
"It wasn't us," was Cordner's assessment of the way his team played over the final half hour of the match.
Both he and coach Laurie Daley said the types of mistakes the team made were "fixable". They have a point – the Blues were good enough to swamp Queensland at Suncorp in Game One and utterly dominate the first half of Game Two before completely losing their way.
Credit of course must go to Queensland and especially Maroons warhorse Johnathan Thurston who swung the match despite his right arm hanging limply by his side. Veteran fullback Billy Slater was simply superb in his first Origin in two years. The Maroons forwards and maligned middle men Dylan Napa and Josh McGuire in particular plus recalled second-gamer Gavin Cooper got through a mountain of important work.
But the biggest disappointment for NSW was to give a team with such dangerous playmakers so many opportunities.
"We worked really hard in that first half to put ourselves in that position, up by 10 points," Cordner said.
"I thought we came out after [half-time] really good before we applied some pressure again but it just felt like we gave Queensland too much cheap ball.
"There was a stage there in the second half where we weren't finishing sets the way we wanted to. It felt like we were getting on top then giving away a cheap penalty for them out of yardage.
"There were some positive signs there for us but it's just so disappointing to work so hard then to come down to that and get beaten like that, it hurts.
"Just because we played some really good footy and just went away from it there. It wasn't us. Queensland to their credit, they took their opportunities but at the end of the day I thought we beat ourselves. That's the most disappointing part, especially given the opportunity that we had and how hard we worked in that first half."
"Stay tight. Let it burn. Let it hurt. We'll get back together and we'll be ready to go again."
Daley refused to blame any single player for the team losing its way in the second half, saying it was everyone's responsibility, not just one or two people.
"When we talk about losing our way it's trying to force the pass, once you force the pass you end up in a position you don't really want to be and that puts extra pressure on the halves to get you back to where you need to be to attack," Daley said.
"They're fixable things. There's a lot more improvement to come."
Cordner left the field late in the match with a tight calf and will face scans to determine his availability for the Roosters in the immediate future.
"I just felt my calf," he said.
"We'll just have to wait and see how it pulls up tomorrow. I'll go get scans to see how it is."
This article first appeared on NRL.com