Daley to stick with Blues halves for Origin II
NSW coach Laurie Daley has praised the efforts of his two halves Mitchell Pearce and Trent Hodkinson after the Blues' one-point loss to Queensland on Wednesday, assuring fans both will get a chance to level the series in Melbourne in Game Two.
The most contentious positions heading into the series opener, both Hodkinson and Pearce – playing with the unfamiliar No.6 on his back – had good all-round games, although both will likely cop some criticism as the side failed to close out a winnable game.
Most notably, in the 73rd minute with the scores locked at 10-all, a fourth tackle decision from Pearce to spread the ball right will come under fire, although with Hodkinson behind him set to take a shot at one point you could argue captain Robbie Farah sent the ball to the wrong man.
But each defended stoutly and Pearce's kicking game was on song, repeatedly finding big metres as his side looked to get out of their own end, as the Roosters co-captain finished with a huge match-high 525 kick metres.
They also combined well for the side's second try that took them to the lead with Hodkinson's pass giving Pearce the chance to produce a superb step and pass to put Beau Scott over.
"I thought they were terrific," Daley said of the pair.
"I thought they really combined well. Mitch played with control, Hokko did the job we wanted him to do.
"They will be there for game two, there's a headline for you."
After the game both Hodkinson and Pearce were reasonably happy with their individual and combined games despite the loss.
"I thought we combined well, shared the role nicely, another week together will help," Hodkinson said.
"We just need more opportunities down their end in that second half.
"I thought [Pearce's] kicking game was great, he was just putting it up and giving us time to chase. It worked well. We'll take some confidence out of it."
Hodkinson also said he wasn't too unhappy with his own game.
"We just got starved in that second half and it doesn't help. In the first half we went well, put two tries on, built a bit of pressure which was nice. I thought we were all over them at half time at 10-6 up. Plenty of positives; a lot of confidence coming out of that game for myself."
The one glaring error in Hodkinson's own game was a penalty kick that failed to find touch at a critical time, which he said was down to the extra sticky grip players apply to their hands to stop them fumbling the ball.
"Yeah it was a shocker, the old ball grip got me, the sticky grip got me. I didn't hit it good, it stuck to the hand a bit too long but that's no excuse, I've got to get it out. I was pretty happy they didn't score off that set," he said.
Pearce also said he was "pretty happy" with his own game.
"I thought we kicked really well and when we had our set pieces in good ball I thought we attacked really well as well," Pearce said.
"It was just disappointing those crucial errors at the start of the second half didn't allow us to get the field position in the second half. I don't think we really had any good ball at all and didn't put ourselves in a position to get points which against a quality team like that makes it tough to win a game."
Pearce said while he was disappointed they hadn't gone for a field goal on the fourth tackle in the 73rd minute rather than spreading it wide, he was looking forward to a chance to make amends.
"I thought we've been building nicely, there was plenty of good footy there. I'm looking forward to going back and watching the game. The series is still alive," he said.
Blues prop James Tamou, who himself had an outstanding game, also praised the pair.
"They definitely did [combine well], they might get a bit of flak here and there but we know as players they played well and they can hold their heads high," Tamou said.
"They can take that out of it and bring it into the next game because they'll be there for Game Two."