New South Wales can wrap up State of Origin in Game 2 at ANZ Stadium this week and I don't think they need to do anything more than what they did in their brilliant Origin I victory. Although they lead the series 1-0, losing this game at home will mean an almost impossible task of winning the third game in Brisbane. They must wrap up the series at home.
The result of this match, as with most Origins, will come down to winning the key moments and the Blues have to make sure they do that. My main concern is that the return of Queensland's "Big Four" means they'll have more experience in winning those moments. The NSW spine is relatively new to Origin and the halves have more accustomed to playing in losing Blues campaigns.
NSW might not have the class in the key positions that Queensland have, but they do have the better set of forwards and the ability to once again dominate the middle section of the park. On the back of that dominance, the NSW halves have to get repeat sets through a better kicking game than what they produced in Game 1.
ANZ Stadium will be slicker than Suncorp, so both teams will wind back their ball play. Tries will be even harder to score with the desperation levels higher for both teams. While Queensland have picked an overall stronger team for this game, I can see potential weaknesses as well.
The rookie forwards, Jarrod Wallace, Coen Hess and Tim Glasby are all untested in this arena. You just can't begin to imagine the difference in pace when you step up to Origin. We saw how quick Game 1 was, it was unbelievable. These debutantes are obviously good players, you have to be to be selected for your state, but they just haven't experienced the pace of Origin. I've heard forwards tell me it took them four or five Origins to get used to the pace at which it is played. These guys will have to hit the ground running.
I think the Blues can wrap up the series. Big games are usually won up front. They just have to match Queensland in winning their share of the key moments.
Origin might have torn all the stars out of the Storm and Cowboys on the weekend, but they still turned on a great game of football. It was a quality game of football which allowed the fans to see a glimpse of the future, with some really talented youngsters thrown into the fray. I think Paul Green is developing into a great coach and is doing a fantastic job with the Cowboys. They have just picked up Penrith youngster Te Maire Martin who will give them another great option in the halves for when Johnathan Thurston isn't available and, in the future, beyond Thurston's retirement.
We saw during the 2015 season when the Cowboys won the competition that they were never out of a game, winning many in late charges. You saw the same things with the Sharks last year and they have carried it through to this season. They're not playing great football at the moment, but they are still third on the ladder. There is a lot of talk about the culture of a club and the Sharks have developed one where they will fight tooth and nail over every game.
If you have beaten the Sharks in the last few years, chances are it was a close result. The more close games you play in the more you learn how to win them, and the Sharks are never out of a game until the final siren. They have that mindset that they can win any game as long as they still have time. They have developed a confidence, by continually coming from behind to win late in games.
Unfortunately the Titans are turning out to be the exact opposite. They have lost all five games they were leading at halftime this season. They raced out to a 14-0 lead over the Rabbitohs who looked disjointed and almost disinterested. The Titans don't have a lot of experience in winning close games or in shutting out an opposition in the second half. The Titans have had several inconsistent seasons and just don't seem to know how to win a game, regardless of how they start.
It was good to see the Eels bounce back against the Dragons on the back of their physical, often brutal style of play. Brad Arthur has them getting up in the face of the opposition and hitting hard in numbers. They bought Nathan Brown during the off season and they have Kane Evans coming next year. Both players fit that style of play perfectly. Off the back of that physicality you had Corey Norman and Mitchell Moses putting on a kicking clinic, a great display on how to manage field position and possession. The Dragons never looked like winning the game, with the Eels outside backs Clint Gutherson and Bevan French proving hard to handle for the Dragons defence.
Brad Arthur has a massive wrap on Gutherson, he is a natural footballer and I think he'll stay at fullback with Moses and Norman cementing their halves combination. The Eels currently sit in ninth position on the ladder, just outside the Top 8, but have two byes up their sleeve. If they keep improving, they can be a real threat once the finals come around.