Blues now have belief: Alexander
Talk about turning a negative into a positive. And with that, State of Origin is well and truly alive for 2012.
I thought NSW coach Ricky Stuart did a remarkable job transforming our weaknesses in Melbourne into our strengths for the Sydney game on Wednesday night.
It was a special evening at ANZ Stadium with more than 83,000 watching as NSW pushed the series to a decider with a gritty 16-12 win.
After the opening game, I thought we had some problems.
Todd Carney's game was below par, he was the first to admit to that. Brett Stewart really struggled to make an impact. He just looked uncomfortable while our right side defence had some issues.
But didn't it all turn around in game two?
Carney’s goal kicking is a concern, but I thought his general play was significantly improved. It was a great bust and pass which led to Stewart’s second try in the 44th minute.
I thought Carney just looked more at home in the surrounds. I think he’ll now go into game three feeling like he belongs. But there is still room to go better.
Stewart was great from the back. He is such a beautiful mover and great to watch in full flight.
That 45-metre run to the tryline for the second try was simply magic. It sure ignited the massive crowd. It was a tough night for the men at the back and our no.1 showed plenty of poise to defuse some dangerous situations.
I also thought our right side defence improved a lot after conceding two tries to Queensland winger Darius Boyd in Melbourne.
The Blues coaching staff identified these issues and fixed them. For that, they deserve full credit. Some players adapt to State of Origin, some can't handle it and some simply thrive on it. Greg Bird thrives on it.
It is amazing how a player like Bird seems to rise another notch or two in intensity when he pulls on a NSW jumper. It is an old cliché but Bird is made for State of Origin.
He coughed up the ball a few times in the first half but he was powerful and aggressive in the second half. Isn't it incredible how some players just have that uncanny knack of standing up in big games at the highest level?
I think all NSW fans were nervous after Queensland's Greg Inglis scored to reduce the Blues lead to just four points. Over the years, Queensland has broken hearts with thrilling wins in the final few minutes.
You would have been inhuman not to have thought the Maroons might just pinch this late once again. But NSW held on grimly and with great determination. Stuart has certainly instilled a resolve in his team.
Queensland had a few repeat sets and you could sense a final try but NSW repelled them to hang on for a famous win. Who knows, winning in such a tough fashion may finally turn the tide in regards to Origin.
I thought when Maroons halfback Cooper Cronk re-entered the game after being sin-binned, Queensland found a nice rhythm.
The visitors had momentum and a mental edge over NSW. That may now have evaporated although I still think Queensland look a more dangerous side in attack than NSW.
But last night wasn’t about who looked more dangerous, it was about the Blues doing what was necessary to get the win. Now for the decider. Won't the build-up to this game be unbelievable? It has all the ingredients to be a classic.
A 52,000 full house at Suncorp Stadium to not only decide the series but to determine whether Queensland continue their unprecedented dominance. Queensland will be expected to win - the pressure will be on them at home.
But this NSW side won't be intimidated. They look close-knit and determined. The combinations are becoming stronger and I think they have Queensland looking over their shoulder.
You have to wonder whether there is still a gap between the two states. Origin III will be a physical and bruising battle. Last man standing will hold up the shield.
It shapes as one of the greatest games in Origin's 32-year history.
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