Blues call for stability to break stranglehold
They were as close as Michael Jennings' fingernail to sending this year's Holden State of Origin series to a decider and Blues players know the only way to break Queensland's stranglehold is to stick together.
In accumulating 10 series wins in the past 11 years Queensland have displayed time and again that the major gulf between the two teams is not in skill but in execution under rugby league's most intense pressure.
With the Blues trailing 20-10 with 18 minutes to play Game Two was in danger of replicating the carnage of Game Three last year but the unwelcome visitors showed great belief to bridge the gap to four and then missed the chance for the go-ahead play in the cruellest of fashion when Jennings got a fingertip to the ball in a mad scramble in the in-goal.
Rarely has the phrase 'so close yet so far away' seem more apt and veteran Blues and those making their debut believe that the execution required in big moments will only come with a continuity of the 17 selected.
"There's no secret that those guys have had a lot of practice together," said Greg Bird.
"They get their opportunities and they take them because they have the experience to take the right option when they need to.
"Our guys haven't played together that much. We're doing a lot on the training paddock and transferring it but just not taking that right option when we need to and experience and game-time together is only going to make that better."
Prop forward Aaron Woods is viewed by many as the successor to the Blues' captaincy after Paul Gallen's 23rd and final Origin on July 13 and says given the opportunities they have created in the opening two games that now is the time to build combinations rather than tearing them apart again.
"I don't really want to see too many changes, I just want to stick with the same group and go out and make amends for it in Game Three," said Woods.
"We did well to get back into it but we just couldn't capitalise on our opportunities when we got them.
"That's why Queensland are so good at the moment. Every time they had a little bit of an opportunity they took it with both hands. We got a couple tonight and we just couldn't finish at the end of it.
"It's been the story for the last few years. We're training really good but just can't get those finishing touches and it's letting us down every time we play.
"In Sydney, getting beat 6-4, we had that many opportunities we just couldn't put the nail in the coffin whereas Queensland do it every game.
"Their spine controlled it really well. Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and [Johnathan] Thurston are just all class.
"Their kicking game, when they were under the pump a couple of times they put a kick in and got a couple of repeat sets at crucial times when we were going really well and we just couldn't put them away.
"That's the frustrating thing about us at the moment. We're almost there but we just can't get over the line."
Jack Bird made it clear in 26 minutes of game-time in his Origin debut that he will be a regular member of the Blues team for perhaps the next decade and even the 21-year-old can see that the only way to beat Queensland is to replicate their clinical finishing that comes with cohesion.
"I don't see the need of having fresh blood in here. The more you stay with one team the more you gel," said Bird.
"Queensland haven't changed their team for a while now and look what it's done for them.
"If we stick to the same team and they get to know our plays in and out there are good things coming for New South Wales."
Bird senior was impressed by debutants Bird and Frizell and is confident that the nucleus of the squad is capable of turning the Maroon tide a shade of blue in the not too distant future.
"A lot of our young blokes I thought were great tonight," said Bird.
"[Josh] Jackson, Frizell, [Josh] Mansour, [Matt] Moylan, Jack Bird, they're going to be players of the future and I thought they were great tonight.
"They really played like they were leaders in the team and that's what we need from those young blokes coming through.
"Hopefully we'll stay together. The last two games we've created opportunities for ourselves, dominated the arm-wrestle in patches and got some good ball and just weren't able to capitalise on it.
"Hopefully those small opportunities turn into tries and you never know what can be."