Jason Taylor July 04, 2012
Lethal … Greg Inglis can be devastating at fullback. Photo: Getty Images
There is absolutely nothing between NSW and Queensland. The series is locked at one win each after two games. The overall score is 30 points to Queensland, 26 to NSW. Each team has scored five tries with only better goal-kicking from the Maroons giving them their extra four points.
Of those five tries apiece, Queensland have scored two from creative pieces of play and three from kicks. And what about the Blues' five tries? Two from creative pieces of play and three from kicks. Queensland have made more line breaks (8-6) and lead the overall possession rates (51 per cent to 49). The Blues have been slightly better in metres gained (2950-2843) and have made one more offload (15-14). Can it get any tighter?
Tonight, there will be 34 players prepared to die for a win. The forwards will smash each other for 80 minutes. There will be mistakes, penalties, refereeing errors and probably a punch-up or two. The pace won't slow for a second and it will be close until the end. But the most creative team will win.
That's not to say that all the statistics and contests aren't important. Because, if one team dominates the other in any of the areas mentioned above it could propel them to victory. But these teams are so evenly matched that I can't see that happening. And while both teams will go as hard as they can on every single play, it will all boil down to a few crucial plays and a few crucial players.
If one team is to control the game, NSW have the edge. Their forward pack has been dominant. However, the Maroons have shown in the past they are capable of being beaten in the stats but still win the match. This is because their key players have stood up at crucial times and created points.
In game one in Melbourne, Queensland did exactly that. Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk latched onto their scoring opportunities and the Maroons won the match. Thurston and Cronk are two of Queensland's most crucial players and the pressure is on them.
These two need to reproduce the type of creativity they manufactured in Origin I, as we haven't seen it since. In fact, Queensland's last three tries have come from kicks - they haven't created a try without a kick since the first half of Origin I. Tries from kicks are worth the same points but they tend to be a hit or miss.
Queensland's other crucial players are Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis. Smith hasn't come up with much in relation to creating tries but he usually does. NSW need to watch him.
From a NSW fan's perspective, Inglis switching to fullback concerns me. He doesn't have the skill and flair of Slater, but he's just as creative in his own barnstorming way.
Mitchell Pearce and Robbie Farah will need to play well, but Todd Carney and Brett Stewart are the players they will rely on to win. Stewart and Carney's combination blossomed in game two as they linked up for two of NSW's three tries. If they pick up where they left off, they are a big chance.