The NSW Blues need an urgent overhaul of their game plan for State of Origin 2, writes Matty Johns.
The NSW Blues need an urgent overhaul of their game plan for State of Origin 2, writes Matty Johns.

Matty Johns: Serious tactical blunder cost Blues

Queensland were in the sweet spot going into Wednesday's State of Origin opener - very few gave them a chance, they were too young, NSW too experienced, too much attacking arsenal.

At halftime that spot was even sweeter - down 10-0, the scoreline not a true indication of how dominant the Blues were.

You just couldn't see the contest turning around.

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NSW were so deliberate in everything they did in the first half, they knew how they wanted to play and they executed beautifully.

Queensland were on the ropes leading into the break, James Tedesco was beating three and four defenders with every touch.

With the ball the Maroons were playing like strangers - they were disjointed, they couldn't find rhythm or forward momentum.

NSW players dejected during their loss in State of Origin I. Picture: Brett Costello
NSW players dejected during their loss in State of Origin I. Picture: Brett Costello

 

WHAT HAPPENED?

 

After halftime, Queensland tidied up their game.

Your defence dictates how many errors you're able to make.

In the first half NSW made four or five big errors but their defensive discipline and structure kept turning Queensland away.

On the other side of the coin, the Blues punished Queensland for their errors.

The Maroons' errors came on the back of unnecessary sideways passing - not enough 'north/south' football, too much 'east/west'.

In the second half they adjusted, playmakers Daly Cherry-Evans and Cameron Munster played to their natural strengths - run first, pass second.

It straightened Queensland's attack and simplified it.

Their forwards rolled upfield and they suddenly started winning the yardage battle.

Queensland's two tries to put them in front - in the 49th and 53rd minutes - came as a result of the playmakers challenging the Blues' defence and producing a late offload.

NSW simply lost their way. Everything swung.

The Blues were the ones now playing too 'east/west'.

The attacking trigger for NSW is Damien Cook. When the No.9 clears the markers things happen, but 'east/west' attack plays away from Cook.

The more the Blues chased points, the more sideways they got.

The loss of Cameron Murray was huge. Murray's speed and footwork through the middle produces fast play-the-balls and gives his dummy-half and playmakers the momentum they need to have an impact.

NSW knew how they wanted to play, but when the pressure arrived they lost their focus.

 

THE STARS

KURT CAPEWELL: I thought his performance in Penrith's semi-final win over South Sydney was five-star. I've no doubt it was a primary reason Queensland coach Wayne Bennett selected him. In the first half Capewell looked like a back-rower playing in the centres. Defensively he looked vulnerable and struggled to make an impact with the ball. In the second half it was all opposite - he set up tries, saved tries. It was the best performance of his life.

DANE GAGAI: Gagai will be remembered as a truly great Origin performer. From the wing, he's picked up man of the match and man of the series awards, and whenever Queensland need a big play in a big moment, he constantly comes up with it. He worried the Blues with every touch.

DALY CHERRY-EVANS: He's matured as a playmaker. In the past, coaches have looked to take responsibility off Daly so he can play his 'natural game'. His 'natural game' now involves leadership, direction and poise under pressure.

CAMERON MUNSTER: Three days of heavy celebrations and a phone call to Maroons assistant coach Mal Meninga begging for another 24 hours of partying with his Melbourne teammates, you had to question if the five-eighth was going to be in the right frame of mind to play near his best. He was fantastic, tormenting NSW in the second half and scoring a brilliant match-winning try.

JAKE FRIEND: He did whatever it took. Like he does at the Roosters, the Maroons hooker tackled himself into a standstill and made some strong runs out of dummy-half, which encouraged his team to play more direct.

DANIEL SAIFITI: The Blues' best player. He made metres with every carry. When the Blues lost their way and started playing too sideways it lessened his impact, but a really strong performance.

JAMES TEDESCO: Nothing says your team is on top like Tedesco pinballing through the middle defence. Halftime came at exactly the right time for Queensland, NSW were dominating the centre field and Tedesco was starting to make defenders miss. Once again, the sideways nature of the Blues' second-half attack played away from Tedesco.

CODY WALKER: He didn't get a lot of time but he sparked NSW and reignited the attack when the momentum totally swung to Queensland. If the Blues played with the same power and directness as they did in the first half, his impact would have been much greater. Needs to go into the starting side.

 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The first half shows coach Brad Fittler and the Blues that the blueprint is right. It's about holding it together under pressure. They made so many errors which they were able to absorb in the first 40, but ultimately caught up with them.

I think Cody Walker goes into the team and Ryan Papenhuyzen takes the No.14 jersey.

 

Originally published as Matty Johns: Serious tactical blunder cost Blues


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