State of Origin in 2023 belongs to Queensland after they hammered New South Wales 32-6 in Wednesday night's Game Two in Brisbane, and they'll now head to Sydney next month with the chance to secure the first series whitewash in 13 years.
Following their 26-18 victory in Game One in Adelaide, the Maroons attacked the game with confidence and enthusiasm in front of a crowd of 52,433 at Suncorp Stadium.
Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans played a starring role, fullback Reece Walsh found a new level after his Origin debut in Game One, while centre Valentine Holmes did much of the damage on the scoreboard with a personal double.
After reverting to the bench before kick-off, prop Lindsay Collins powered through for 135 metres on his way to Player of the Match honours.
The game ended in chaos, with Walsh and Jarome Luai sent off for headbutts in a melee in the dying seconds – which also saw Josh Addo-Carr binned for throwing a punch – but it had no bearing on the outcome.
The Blues had no shortage of chances to score points but looked disjointed in attack, with several backline moves ending in the ball spilling over the sideline or with players being tackled on last play.
As NSW celebrated denying the Maroons a try inside the opening three minutes, centre Tom Trbojevic reeled away with a game-ending torn pectoral, which proved to be far more costly than any four-pointer.
Trbojevic leaves the field
The early injury exposed the Blues' lack of utility value on the bench and meant back-up hooker Damien Cook had to play the remainder of the game at left centre, and the Maroons found success targeting the makeshift combination on a number of occasions.
After Holmes' opener was confirmed following review by the Bunker, NSW wrestled back some momentum and enjoyed prolonged periods attacking the opposition line.
They looked set to hit back when Stephen Crichton picked off a loose ball and scooted 75 metres down field, but instead Cherry-Evans produced a classic try-saving cover tackle and on the very next set it was Queensland who scored through Murray Taulagi.
Taulagi extends the lead
Facing a 10-0 deficit at the break NSW needed a good start, but instead allowed Walsh to make a long-range break just two minutes into the second period which ended in the Broncos flyer laying on the final pass for Holmes to score his second, after he produced a brilliant pick up.
A relatively innocuous kick back infield from the Maroons following a half break should have been cleaned up, but instead Payne Haas – who was his side's best player, running for 141 metres and making 41 tackles – found himself as the only Blues player chasing back, with the bounce eluding him and gifting Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow an easy try.
Enter the Hammer
Cook did get one back on 57 minutes to keep the dream alive for NSW, but it was quickly crushed by Queensland's fifth a short time later, with Walsh adding to a stunning performance with an assist for recalled winger Xavier Coates.
A dropped ball from Cook with seven minutes to go presented Jeremiah Nanai with a try in his return to the Origin arena, with Holmes adding a third conversion of the night to confirm a 32-6 victory.
Match: Maroons v Blues
Game 2 -
Venue: Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
- The Maroons have claimed the series victory for the second year in a row, following a 2-1 victory over the Blues in 2022.
- In 59 games played at Lang Park/Suncorp Stadium, Queensland have now won 38 of them, including nine of the past 11.
- A melee in the closing seconds saw Reece Walsh and Jarome Luai sent off for headbutts, while Josh Addo-Carr was binned for throwing a punch.
- Walsh ended the game with two try assists, two line-break assists, a line break of his own and 120 run metres.
- Payne Haas was huge in a beaten side, carrying the ball for 141 metres and making 41 tackles with just one miss.
- With a four-pointer in the second half, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow has now scored four tries in his three Origin matches.
- The Blues enjoyed 54 percent of possession and ran for more metres as a team, but made just two line breaks to Queensland's seven.
The Blues are on the board
Play of the Game
With the Maroons up 4-0, this could have been the play which changed momentum in the match and put NSW right back in the contest. Instead, a chase and cover tackle for the ages from Daly Cherry-Evans created a likely 12-point turnaround. After preventing the Blues from crossing, the skipper made the crucial break on the next set which led to Murray Taulagi scoring.
DCE with an inspirational chase
What They Said
"At the end of the game when I looked at the score I thought 'wow', it was a sign we were playing against a good team because I didn't think we were that far out of the game, and we got beat by four or five tries. Outside the moments they scored the tries I thought we competed and we fought hard." – New South Wales coach Brad Fittler.
Blues: Game 2
"Proud is an understatement... [the players] just keep raising the bar. We have seen some great Queensland victories and great Queensland performances, but the adversity – and different adversity this time that had come from the opposition, they applied the pressure in that first half – they'd make line breaks and we'd come up with some big plays. There are no excuses in this team, no worrying about what's just happened, it's just about getting on with the job and being resilient, and that's what the people of Queensland do and we try and reflect that." – Queensland coach Billy Slater.
Maroons: Game 2
The series heads back to Sydney for Game Three, with Queensland safe in the knowledge that the shield is remaining with them and the Blues looking to avoid being on the wrong end of the first series whitewash since 2010. Pending injuries Maroons coach Billy Slater is likely to stick to his winning formula, while the Blues will have some big decisions to make after an ugly opening two games.