Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
An ankle injury to halfback Nathan Cleary has soured an otherwise perfect performance from the Blues who silenced the critics with a 38-6 hammering of Queensland in front of a record-breaking crowd at Optus Stadium.
New South Wales coach Brad Fittler was criticised for many of his changes heading into Sunday night's game. But he had the last laugh as Tom Trbojevic and James Maloney returned to the State of Origin arena to help the Blues to victory in front of 59,721 fans.
Much was made of Fittler's decision to dump Cody Walker after just one game in the Origin arena in favour of the more experienced Maloney.
While the move may have been unfair, it paid off as the 33-year old led the Blues to a dominant 18-6 lead at half-time.
Maloney set up two of their three tries and almost would have added another had his final pass not been called back for a forward pass.
He also kicked a 40-20 and was his cool, calm and collected self as he led New South Wales around without halves partner Nathan Cleary, who picked up an ankle injury late in the first half.
While the assist was Maloney's, the first try belonged to Trbojevic.
The 22-year old was lethal in his return to the sky-blue jersey, scoring three tries despite playing in the centres, a position he is yet to play in for the Manly Sea Eagles.
His first four-pointer was as spectacular as they come, soaring above to out-leap Kalyn Ponga and snatch Maloney's bomb to score.
Controversy later ensued as Queensland nabbed a penalty try, their second during this series.
While some diehard Blues fans may argue the decision to be a harsh one, it is at least consistent with what the officials have ruled throughout the year.
And the fact that Will Chambers almost grounded the Ben Hunt kick despite the interference proved it to be the right call.
The Blues didn't put their heads down though. This was a far more resilient New South Wales outfit.
Five minutes later Maloney played it short to Tyson Frizell who showed incredible hands to hold onto the ball and then barge past several Queensland defenders.
The rain then fell and the game descended into a flurry of errors.
But eventually the Blues pushed further ahead when James Tedesco ran out of dummy-half and beat his opposite Hunt.
He then got on the outside of centre Michael Morgan and found Trbojevic backing up in support to score his second.
While Maloney and Trbojevic stole the show in their respective comebacks, Tedesco was again the Blues' greatest threat in attack and could snatch the player of the series medal with another strong effort in game three.
The Roosters fullback was enormous at the back, running for 209 metres, setting up two tries and just as many line breaks.
Each kick return was quality and helped the Blues start each set off with plenty of momentum.
An ill-disciplined start to the second half saw Queensland concede the opening five penalties and New South Wales opted for two-straight penalty goals to extend their lead by four points.
Despite the wet weather persisting, the Blues then pushed it out wide to Josh Addo-Carr who outpaced Dane Gagai and Chambers.
He then found Tedesco in support who flicked it back inside for Trbojevic to score his third.
Another penalty saw the Blues gifted more field position and they capitalised again, this time Wade Graham kicking ahead for Addo-Carr who pounced.
The speedy winger then had a double when he finished off a well-executed short-side raid in the 75th minute, started off a smart run out of dummy-half from Damien Cook.
The Blues held out their opponents to run out 38-6 winners and to set up an intriguing series decider at ANZ Stadium.
New South Wales 38 - Queensland 6
Venue: Optus Stadium
Halftime Score: New South Wales 18 Queensland 6
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - James Tedesco
2 points - James Maloney
1 points - Tom Trbojevic
NEW SOUTH WALES (38)
Tries: Tom Trbojevic (3), Tyson Frizell, Josh Addo-Carr (2)
Conversions: Nathan Cleary (2/2), James Maloney (3/4)
Penalty Goals: James Maloney (2/2)
Tries: Will Chambers
Conversions: Kalyn Ponga (1/1)