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QUICK WRAP: State of Origin, women's game 2
22 June 2023 - Queensland play New South Wales in game 2 of the women's State of Origin series on Thrusday night at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville
Since the women’s interstate game was given the State of Origin brand in 2018, eight points is the second largest margin of victory and ten is the largest1. It’s a lot of points in a 70 minute contest where the time run off by tries scored and conversions eats into a much larger proportion of the game than we’re used to with the men. However, with this year’s (hopefully, unique) two game winner-by-aggregate format, eight points - or nine if we don’t want to go through the world’s stupidest set of tiebreakers - was all anyone could concentrate on. Win, or lose by less than eight, and Queensland win the series.
The Blues came out of the gates firing, determined to score as many as quickly as possible. The Maroons looked a little shell shocked and were down by six inside the first ten. Once Queensland got to grips with how the game was going to be played, they went up a gear, found their running and their passing and challenged New South Wales to take this one from them. The Maroons exploited a fragile defensive channel around Jesse Southwell. Tarryn Aiken put Tazmin Gray onto Southwell, who was free to offload to a supporting Tamika Upton for the first Queensland points. It looked like the Blues would have wrapped up Gray but the ball popped out to Pelite, who had three defenders on her, but still managed to find an opening to squeeze the ball on to Bass who went over in the corner. On the next set, Aiken ran straight at the gap between Olivia Kernick and Southwell and went through near enough to untouched, reminiscient of Tamika Upton slicing the line open in 2020. That game was another Maroons victory and with a 14-6 lead at half time and another eight points in the back pocket, it was looking healthy for Queensland.
The Blues came out of the gates firing again. With the additional fatigue in the game, New South Wales found a better purchase, adding another six points early in the second half. The Maroons slowly descended into chaos and madness and generally forgot how to handle a football, playing the most frustrating half we’ve seen out of a Queensland side since the last time Origin visited Townsville. As the seconds ticked down, focus switched more and more to the aggregate score instead of winning the game in front of them. The toll mounted on both sides and the Blues, to their credit, didn’t put their heads down. Their eventual reward was a penalty try with barely enough time on the clock. A lack of nous saw them waste away the final precious seconds instead of hurrying the conversion. The refs did their best to give New South Wales a second chance but eventually time expired.
The Blues won the battle but lost the war.
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Whereas the Maroons went into the break with more ball and a lead in most of the important categories, and in touching distance of the rest, Queensland were statistically blown out in the second half. The Maroons had a deficit of only 46 running metres at half time but let that expand to 269 by the end of the game. The Blues piled on four line breaks to one in the second half. Despite the excess of possession, a swingback of 5% from half time, the Blues still made more tackles. Even so, had the Maroons had just a little left in the tank in the final two minutes, they would have still won the game.
Total errors were down from 30 in game 1 to 20 in game 2, which is probably still twice what you’d want to see at this level. Last year’s game was 14. New South Wales also gave up ground in the all-important penalty tie breaker, going from 5-5 to 8-11
Let’s gronk (sort of)
It’s weird that the Maroons were celebrating after a loss. It didn’t look like they knew whether to laugh or cry. We’re simple folk, just have a three game series.
The Maroons really only put together a decent offensive game from about 10’ to half time and that was enough to secure the series. The Blues had the upper hand for the rest of the match but Queensland’s defence, like their male counterparts, held firm (for the most part).
Let me state the obvious - much like last year’s World Cup final, Ali Brigginshaw showed everyone while she’s still the best. Tamika Upton had an outstanding performance at the back and on both sides of the ball. Tazmin Gray rules so damn hard. Zehara Temara had one of her better games in the Maroon jersey. I like the Brill/Manzelmann combo but Queensland are a forward or two short of really taking it to the Blues. Shannon Mato made 159 metres, a number only bested by Kelly, Sergis and Tonegato.
Shaniah Power needed more than eight minutes and she’s from Bowen, so it’s not like she was going to struggle in the conditions. Shaylee Bent didn’t even get on the field. What are these coaches doing? It was 88% humidity.
Phil Gould praised her late in the game but I thought Shenae Ciesolka had a stinker. I don’t really blame her for the penalty try - that was happening either way - but she really struggled to deal with Isabelle Kelly, a woman who looked like she should still be in hospital after her injury in game 1, or find any real yards.
There were numerous opportunities for the Maroons to challenge questionable calls and they saved it for the end of the game when they would have been better off running a a few more seconds off the clock while the scrum formed up.
Fuimaono looked the more threatening of the Blues halves with ball in hand. Link her up with Tonegato and there should have been a lot more points available to New South Wales. I have no idea why they didn’t exploit that more. That was one of a series of mystifying tactical decisions that probably cost the Blues the series.
Jaime Chapman looks about three times stronger than she has and will be a weapon for the Titans.
The crowd of 18,275 was huge, a full 5,000 better than could be bothered in Sydney, albeit with insufficient booing of the Blues. It’s ok, they can take it. Moreover, the crowd noise wasn’t just the shrill shrieks of teenage girls in an empty cavern, but sounded exactly like the kind of crowd the NRLM attracts. Hopefully, one day, Queensland can get it together enough to actually win a game at Queensland Country Bank Stadium, where NSW are 2-0.
The two games of this series are the first two away wins in women’s Origin. The first two at North Sydney Oval were Blues wins, the second two at Sunshine Coast were Maroons wins and then, for the purposes of this note, I’m counting Canberra as Blues’ territory.
I’m ready for the NRLW to start now please.
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2019, NSW 14 - QLD 4