NSW coach Brad Fittler declared that the Blues were ready to do what no Origin team has done for 28 years and bounce back from a first up defeat at home to win away in Perth and Brisbane.
Queensland’s 16-10 triumph at Accor Stadium on Wednesday night was their first win in Sydney since Johnathan Thurston kicked a sideline conversion with a dislocated shoulder in 2017, but the result was more significant than the end of a hoodoo for the Maroons.
Since the Origin concept was expanded to a best of three series in 1982, the Blues have recovered from an opening game defeat to win on three occasions, while Queensland have achieved the feat six times.
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However, the 1994 Blues are the only team to lose the first match at home and win Games II and III away - a result NSW must repeat in Perth and Brisbane if they are to retain the Origin Shield.
"It's always tough. If you lose the first one you are up against it," Fittler said. "We have got to travel to Perth and have a week's preparation there and then obviously we have got to win it in Queensland.
"Winning the game there last year give us a lot of confidence at Suncorp but it's a big challenge."
The Blues were forced to play all three matches in Queensland last year and won the first two matches in Townsville and Brisbane but they had not played before a capacity Sydney crowd since 2019.
To lose in front of a sold out 80,561 stadium hurt but Fittler said it was too soon to consider changes for the June 26 match in Perth, with a shoulder injury which forced Kotoni Staggs from the field in the second half not believed to be serious.
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Fittler was more concerned about the speed of the ruck and will speak to NRL referees boss Jarrod Maxwell about the length of time Queensland were able to hold the Blues down in tackles.
The average NSW play-the-ball speed in the first 20 minutes was 2.99 seconds but slowed to 3.44 seconds by full-time.
In comparison Queensland's average play-the-ball speed was 3.25 seconds.
"I just thought Queensland did a great job, they got in tight and held on and they didn't want to give penalties away," Fittler said.
"It was 17 minutes to go before we got our first penalty so they did a great job there, they worked hard and they definitely won the ruck. We should have done a better job.
"We should have held them down longer, simple. They did what we should have done."
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The Blues also questioned whether Queensland's first try came from a forward pass and why action wasn't taken over Junior Paulo being held in a scrum when Daly Cherry-Evans scored for the Maroons early in the second half.
There is no doubt the Blues missed the strike power of injured superstars Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic, but Jack Wighton was arguably NSW's best player at left centre.
Concerns about an aerial attack from Queensland playmakers Cameron Munster and Daly Cherry-Evans for their skyscraper wingers Selwyn Cobbo and Xavier Coates failed to come to fruition but the Maroons found success by attacking NSW on the edges.
The first Queensland try to centre Dane Gagai late in the first half after Cobbo picked up a loose pass and grubbered in field for his right side partner and Valentine Holmes scored in the second half after shifting to the left wing to replace the injured Coates.
It was considered that the greatest advantage the Blues had was the stability of their spine, with fullback James Tedesco, halfback Nathan Cleary and hooker Damien Cook playing together since 2018 and five-eighth Jarome Luai having played with them in last year’s series.
Yet the NSW attack appeared clunky and disjointed at times, and Cleary’s kicking game didn’t have the impact most have come to expect from the star Panthers playmaker.
The game was played at breakneck speed from start to finish and the result wasn’t assured until Munster stopped Isaah Yeo just short of the try-line in the last tackle of the match.
Tedesco ran a game high 266 metres, while wingers Daniel Tupou and Brian To’o both carried the ball more than 200 metres, while Cook made 56 tackles, Liam Martin 51 and Payne Haas 41.
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