Queensland have the opportunity to win back the State Of Origin shield when they clash with New South Wales in Game 2 of the series at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday night. The Maroons won the first match in Sydney by the narrowest of margins, Cooper Cronk’s late field goal proving decisive after Mal Meninga’s side had fought back from a half time deficit to level the scores through a Will Chambers try fifteen minutes into the second period. The Blues were left to lament their inability to execute in attack through the back end of the game and now face an uphill battle to hold on to the trophy, with history suggesting that the victor of the opening game is well placed to go on and win the series (it’s happened no less than 25 times since the annual interstate clashes began back in 1980).
The Maroons hitman is back. Matt Gillett has got the sting back in his hard-hitting shoulders and is ready to make amends for his Origin I disappointment.
Queensland’s defensive specialist was below his best in Game One, missing six tackles as the Maroons struggled to contain a rampaging Andrew Fifita.
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett sensed his Test forward was feeling the pinch of a gruelling season and ordered him to rest.
He’s largely responsible for the most amount of changes to a Queensland side in 11 years.
But that’s not the only reason why NSW tearaway Andrew Fifita spent the majority of Tuesday smiling.
In a staggering admission, Fifita has declared that after watching a replay of his Origin I demolition, he “should’ve run harder” — and that Queensland were in for a rude shock if they plan to target him at ANZ Stadium next Wednesday night
Gillett bounced back with a bruising 44-tackle effort against the Rabbitohs last week and will be Queensland’s new forwards leader after coach Kevin Walters wielded the selection axe.
Gillett has set his sights on stiffening up Queensland’s leaky defence in Game Two on Wednesday and the Maroons need him to be at his brutal best.
“As a whole team we weren’t happy and I personally wasn’t happy with some of the things I could have done better (in Game One),” Gillett told The Courier Mail.
“Once I get my defence right stuff flows off the back of it. Hopefully I can nail that to start the game with and the rest will flow.
“Our defence has to be key. Hopefully we do enough to slow down their big forwards that we struggled with at the start of the game last time and they got that roll on.”
“But I wasn’t pushing as hard and so when he gave me the ball, I got my head through the defensive line, but didn’t get all the way through.
“I’ve just looked at the little things to see what could’ve been, if I had been running a lot harder.’’
Fifita was impossible to handle in Origin I, running for 168 metres, while also producing seven tackle busts, two offloads, a try assist and four-pointer of his own in the 28-4 victory.
Up north, Queensland coach Kevin Walters has overhauled his pack, sacking Nate Myles, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra and Jacob Lillyman in a desperate bid to halt Fifita and his fellow Blues forwards.
Darius Boyd, Corey Oates, Greg Inglis, Justin O’Neill, Dane Gagai, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk, Matt Scott, Cameron Smith (c), Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday, Corey Parker. Interchange: Michael Morgan, Jacob Lillyman, Aidan Guerra, Josh Papalii. 18th man: Ethan Lowe. Coach: Kevin Walters
From Game I:
In: Jacob Lillyman
Out: Nate Myles (injured)
New South Wales:
Matt Moylan, Blake Ferguson, Michael Jennings, Dylan Walker, Josh Mansour, James Maloney, Adam Reynolds, Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, James Tamou, Greg Bird, Josh Jackson, Paul Gallen (c). Interchange: Jack Bird, Tyson Frizell, David Klemmer, Andrew Fifita. 18th man: Bryce Cartwright. Coach: Laurie Daley
From Game I:
In: Jack Bird*, Tyson Frizell*
Out: Josh Morris, Boyd Cordner (both injured).