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Paul's back again for his preview of 2014 Origin Game Two.
Disclaimer: Paul is a devout New South Welshman. Queenslanders... look away.
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New South Wales Blues v Queensland Maroons
Wednesday 8:00pm at ANZ Stadium, Sydney Olympic Park
Game 2. ANZ Stadium will be jam packed with 85,000 rabid rugby league fans and rightly so. There is no better event in the country, no bigger rivalry in any of our codes and no greater story than State of Origin. 100 games in the books and may there be 100 more. On Wednesday night, New South Wales have another opportunity to stop a 9 year horror run of losses to their most hated rival.
The Blues' players spoke of the ‘dark places' they went to in game 1, having to defend their line against a never-ending tidal wave of Maroon jerseys. This dark place is a realm often visited by blues fans, except without any actual physical exertion or excruciating injuries to play through, but nearly the same. So, get ready for another 80 minutes of the greatest footy you will ever see and whilst the pace will be the fast, the scoring will again be slow.
Queensland will be confident. They lost their halfback after 10 minutes in the opener, had their captain on one leg for most of the second half and were missing Sam Thaiday. Still 2 tries a piece; Goal kicking the difference. Battered and bruised and in disarray? After one game? Please. This time, we'll see their best. The best of Daly Cherry Evans - you just get the feeling he's fine - the best of Matt Scott and the best of the frightening rest.
The Blues also believe. Even with a new right side in Josh Dugan and Will Hopoate and the huge pressure they'll be under to produce the kind of defense that won the opener, New South Wales will come out of the blocks quickly and confidently with a dominant front line. But as with nearly every series we've seen, this will be decided in the last 15 mins and will be via the hands of their halves. Trent Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds stand on the precipice of a place in Origin folklore.
If they can do it just a little better than future immortal, Jonathan Thurston, it will be party time. If so, let it fly NSW, LET.IT.FLY - and for god's sake drink responsibly. Also, if you live in the Olympic Park precinct or close by, best prepare for a noisy evening, at least until 10pm when they kick everyone out of the brewery. The Blues have matured and will keep their composure in the final moments as history is made.
My tip: I'll be calling in sick on Thursday.
Man of the Match tip: Ryan Hoffman (NSW Blues)