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12 Origin moments show they have no one else to blame

NSW complained about five refereeing moments in Origin I, they’d be better served worrying about the dozen dud options they took which contributed to the upset loss to Queensland.

The Blues enter Sunday night’s second match at Perth with all the pressure on them and since the siren sounded at Accor Stadium more than two weeks ago, they’ve been complaining about copping a supposed raw deal from the match officials.

Brad Fittler, as he’s entitled to do, approached referees’ boss Jared Maxwell before the start of the series to state his concerns about Queensland’s ruck and kick-pressure tactics.

After openly complaining about referee Ashley Klein’s performance in the post-game media conference, he followed up by presenting Maxwell with a list of grievances centred around five key decisions.

Those incidents, as reported during the week by the Sydney Morning Herald, revolved around the pressure applied to Nathan Cleary as he kicked in general play, the controversial Daly Cherry-Evans try and a couple of early 50-50 calls which went against the Blues.

It’s become more of a trend in recent years for the NSW camp and certain NRL teams to use the media to highlight the areas that they think the referee got wrong, leaking particular examples as a way of putting faceless pressure on the match officials. They don’t find their way into the media by accident, put it that way.

Of the five in question this time around, you don’t have to be blind Freddy to tell Fittler that these are hardly the refereeing crimes of the century.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 02: Blues coach Brad Fittler looks on during a New South Wales Blues State of Origin squad training session at Ignite HQ Centre of Excellence on June 02, 2022 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Blues coach Brad Fittler. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Rebuffing the Blues’ gripes

Incident 1: Queensland were awarded a seven-tackle set in the sixth minute when fullback Kalyn Ponga took off from the field of play and landed in the in-goal area as he caught the ball. If you freeze-frame this incident, his boots are centimetres from the surface as he defuses the Cleary bomb. It’s a 50-50 call at worst.

Incident 2: The Blues were penalised for rag-dolling rookie winger Selwyn Cobbo over the sideline. Klein had clearly called held before the defenders, thinking they had maintained momentum after the initial contact, flung him over the stripe. Whether they heard Klein yell “held” above the din of the sell-out crowd is irrelevant. 

Incident 3: Maroons forward Kurt Capewell breaking from marker to pressure a Cleary kick. This kind of thing happens all the time in the more stringently policed NRL arena without being penalised, it’s a fool’s errand to believe it’s going to be pinged unless it’s a blatant infringement in Origin.

Incident 4: Queensland rookie Patrick Carrigan hitting Cleary late after a kick in the second half. See above.

Incident 5: Junior Paulo being held by Lindsay Collins in the scrum which supposedly prevented him from tackling Daly Cherry-Evans when he scored in the 49th minute. The hold was hardly Tarzan’s grip, Paulo didn’t show enough urgency to break free, which forms part of the 12 incidents NSW should be looking to rectify rather instead of complaining about the refs.

Queensland celebrate in Origin 1

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The 12 incidents where Blues only have themselves to blame

3rd minute: Liam Martin knocks on after being put through a gap by Nathan Cleary with Cameron Munster backpedalling. Ponga and cover defence looked to have the break in check but the fumble relieved pressure on Queensland.

10th minute: Issah Yeo loose carry, loses possession midfield in a one-on-one tackle from Ben Hunt. 

24th minute: Paulo fumbles at the play-the-ball because he was rushing too quickly. “Queensland needed this,” Cooper Cronk says on Fox League commentary after the Maroons, trailing 4-0, had been camped down their own end much more than the Blues up until this stage.

39th minute: If Cameron Murray had weaved his way through the Queensland defensive line as a decoy runner instead of stopping just before half-time, Paulo’s try under the posts would not have been disallowed and they would have carried a 10-6 advantage into the break.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 08: Junior Paulo of the Blues score a try before it was disallowed during game one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 08, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Junior Paulo scores but it was no try as Pat Carrigan is impeded by Cam Murray. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Patrick Carrigan was the defender impeded. If Murray had zigzagged through, Carrigan would have been at long odds to stop Paulo’s progress with a tackle from the side just two or three metres out from the line.

47th minute: Jack Wighton knocks on from a bomb while trying to bat it back in a contest with Cobbo. Execution in a key moment again lets the Blues down. Klein initially ruled a line drop-out but the bunker correctly overturned his call to make it a Maroons 20m restart.

48th minute: Ryan Matterson stood and watched as Munster stepped around him, then beat two defenders and Matterson again to make a line break from midfield. NSW winger Daniel Tupou knocks down the ball to prevent the attacking raid on the next play, leading to a scrum…

49th minute: If Paulo had been more aggressive in breaking free of what was a relatively minor hold of his jersey from Collins at the scrum for DCE’s try, then this moment would not have been the major turning point of the match. Tariq Sims overread the play, as did James Tedesco at the back, but it’s hard to fault the big second-rower too much for being wrong-footed one on one by a more agile halfback.

54th minute: Stephen Crichton’s tackle takes Munster past the horizontal, which can happen when you just come onto the field. He then rushes in to crunch Felise Kaufusi with right-edge comrade Liam Martin, which meant Payne Haas had to shuffle over with Cleary and Tupou. Ponga spots the prop in the short-side three on three and creates a try for Valentine Holmes after skipping around Haas to create an overlap.

You have to tip your hat to Ponga in this situation and the Blues didn’t do much wrong after the initial penalty but it was Crichton’s initial error which set the play in motion for Queensland’s third try to open up a 16-4 advantage.

64th minute: The Blues have Maroons on the ropes, but Damien Cook’s pass from dummy half sails past Cleary, bounces and Cameron Munster pounces to make a mini break against the run of play.

65th minute: Cameron Murray lets the Maroons off the hook with a last-second offload in a tackle, DCE is quicker to react than Cook and just beats him to the looping pass.

68th minute: Wighton stripped by Munster rucking it out.

74th minute: Crichton stripped by Munster in the red zone.

Cameron Munster of the Maroons takes a selfie with fans after game one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 08, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Cameron Munster of the Maroons takes a selfie with fans after game one at Accor Stadium. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

These last two are more down to Munster’s instinctive play than major errors by the Blues but the Storm five-eighth has a history of making these plays and you can bet the NSW players will be much more aware going into contact with him at Optus Stadium.

By no means should the Blues have nailed all 12 of these key moments. 

No team plays a perfect game. Errors and wrong options frequently occur, particularly in Origin when the intensity is ratcheted up to 11.

But if the Blues want to keep the series alive heading into next month’s series finale at Suncorp Stadium, they need to improve their execution in the pressure moments, rather than trying to transfer the pressure to the referee before, during or after the match.

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