Shattered NSW five-eighth James Maloney says his team's heartbreaking 18-16 loss in Origin Two was a game they had to win but threw away.
The Blues dominated the first half, scoring three unanswered tries after conceding one early to go to the sheds 16-6 up but lost their way in the second half, pushing passes and failing to control the game and being held scoreless as Queensland's seemingly ageless quartet of playmakers corralled a largely inexperienced forward pack towards a last-gasp win.
"It's the game we had to win, really. We should never have lost it from there," a dejected Maloney said in the sheds immediately after the game.
"We threw a game away tonight that we should've won. We'll go up [to Suncorp] confident in doing the job, but she'll still be a big ask."
With coach Laurie Daley conceding in his post-match press conference the team had pushed some unnecessary passes, Maloney said the plan had been to just keep playing as they had in the first half.
"The first 40 we played worked, and we just [tried] to do the same again," he said.
"Along the way we made some decisions that weren't what they should've been… I don't know why those passes were pushed. We didn't need to."
Maloney said the first of Queensland's two second-half tries, which came in the 52nd minute on the back of a Josh McGuire mid-field line break and included half a dozen missed tackles from NSW, came "out of nothing" and things got harder from there.
"It just hurts, you know. It's hard… we should've got the job done and we didn't," he added.
Despite another sapping Origin contest he said the team couldn't blame fatigue.
"They didn't up [the tempo] until they got set after set at halfway and came into 'good ball'.
"Whenever we put them down in the corner to come out, we were fine. That's the thing – we gave them opportunity after opportunity and eventually they took it."
Despite the loss still being fresh, Maloney was confident the same 17 players could go up to Suncorp Stadium for the decider and recapture the type of form they showed in Game One to clinch the series.
"We need to do what we did in Game One and what we did for the first half in this game," he said.