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Blues bounce back in stunning fashion to force Origin decider

The Westpac NSW Blues have forced the 2024 Ampol State of Origin series into a decider with a 38-18 win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground after a commanding Player of the Match performance from halfback Mitch Moses.

One of the five changes to Michael Maguire’s side from the heavy 38-10 loss in Game One, Moses helped deliver the perfect Game Two reply with four try assists and two line-break assists.

His halves partner Jarome Luai was also dominant in coordinating the attacking raids with Moses and forcing three drop-outs to keep the pressure valve on high for the Queenslanders.

“We started the way we wanted to. We wanted to kick to the corners and we prided ourselves on our defence,” Moses told Channel Nine.

“We earned the right to play footy …. And we have some brilliance in our team that can finish off tries."

Game Three will be played on Wednesday 17 July at Suncorp Stadium, where NSW will again face a hostile reception from the parochial Brisbane crowd. 

But the Blues seem to like playing at one of the world’s best sporting stadiums – the MCG. It was NSW’s fifth victory in six Origin games at the venue.

It was hard to find a Blues player who didn’t leave a mark on the match. 

Latrell Mitchell set up Brian To’o with a sublime flick pass, then scored one of his own. The MCG was where Mitchell made his Origin debut back in 2018 and he scored in that game too.

To’o and his opposite-side winger Zac Lomax both scored doubles – Lomax racking up 18 points from his two four-pointers and five conversions – three from the sidelines.

Fullback Dylan Edwards, who missed Game One with a late quad injury during camp, scored a try on debut.

Among the forwards, Payne Haas and Angus Crichton were standouts. Haas made 80 post-contact metres from his 193 metres, while Crichton made 16 runs for 159 metres, 70 of those post-contact, and set up Mitchell for his try.

The damage was done in the first half. 

Three weeks ago, the Maroons scored six tries to two, but tonight the Blues put on six in just the first half.

Three of those tries were a direct result of Moses’ passing and kicking nous.

It also helped that NSW maintained 68 per cent possession by completing 21 from 22 sets, alongside five line breaks and 25 tackle busts in the opening 40 minutes.

The Parramatta halfback went deep into the line to put Liam Martin on an angled run with a sweet pass to open NSW’s scoresheet in the 10th minute. 

It was a mixed night for the hard-working Martin – he scored a try but was also put on report for a lifting tackle and was sin-binned along with Maroons forward Patrick Carrigan after an all-in scuffle early in the second half.

The Blues' third try of the night was off a Moses corner kick that Lomax timed beautifully with his take, leaping over the top of Murray Taulagi in the 23rd minute.

Two minutes later and Moses sent a deft grubber towards the left corner post for To’o to score his second.

Lomax also scored his second when NSW shifted the ball along the right edge. The St George Illawarra winger was dangerous all night with his kick-returns, and busting out of five tackles.

In the second half, Queensland clawed back some momentum with a better rate of possession.

They put on two tries tries in five minutes through Jeremiah Nanai (53rd) and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (58th) and then a third, when Taulagi crossed unmarked on the left edge.

Breaking up that run of points was Moses again putting his imprint on the match.

He sent a 15-metre cut-out pass to Edwards for his first Origin try. NSW was ahead by 20 points with 10 minutes left on the clock but never wavered from their defensive mindset.

“We dedicated ourselves to defending … we showed a Blue wall there,” Mitchell told Channel Nine. 

“It was an enjoyable week but the job is not done.”

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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