State of Origin is heading to a series decider with some staggering details emerging around the graveyard Queensland never wants to see again.

The 2022 State of Origin series is going to a series decider in Brisbane.

The Maroons are heading home for the series finale absolutely decimated after they were put to the sword by the Blues in a second half rampage in Perth on Sunday night.

The Blues crossed for five second half tries to win 44-12 in a game that was riddled with controversy. Some Queensland commentators are still crying foul after a controversial sin bin that had Maroons legends Paul Vautin and Darren Lockyer wanting answers.

It didn’t matter in the end as the Blues ran away with a 28-point win — the Blues’ equal fourth biggest winning margin in Origin’s 42-year history.

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It was do-or-die for NSW — and they showed that right from the start.

Blues coach Brad Fittler took out the axe after the series-opening loss, making seven changes to his squad.

He was criticised after Game 1, but he now looks like a genius again.

Optus Stadium has become a house of horrors for Queensland with a combined score of 82-18 for NSW in the two matches that have been played at the venue.

Nathan Cleary has been the executioner in both of those games.

The Panthers halfback was dominant and had the ball on a string in a performance that will have his critics shutting their mouths for at least a couple weeks.

He was named the official man of the match.

While Cleary cut the Maroons to shreds, teammates Jake Trbojevic, debutant Matt Burton and captain James Tedesco also delivered huge performances when it mattered.

Game 3 will be played at Suncorp Stadium on July 13.

Cleary ‘rampage’ cuts Queensland to pieces

Cleary broke Queensland’s back with his first try in the 63rd minute and then he broke their spirit with his second try three minutes later.

Both of his tries came from simple steps back inside from Maroons defenders.

Suddenly it was 38-12 and Channel 9 commentator Matt Thompson said, “They’re on a rampage”.

Maroons legend Cameron Smith said in commentary NSW were “unstoppable”.

Cleary’s tries came after Jarome Luai started the rampage with another simple try running through tired Queensland defenders.

‘This is a gee-up’: Queensland star sent to the bin

The most controversial moment came just before half time when Felise Kaufusi was sent to the bin.

Kaufusi was flopping on the ground trying to slow down Junior Paulo playing the ball near the try line and was penalised. It was the third straight ruck infringement by Queensland and Kaufusi paid the price for it.

“This is huge. This is massive,” Channel 9’s Matt Thompson said.

Rugby league guru Phil Gould was not happy about the decision to send Kaufusi to the bin.

“I’m disappointed in the sin bin for the game’s sake but let’s hope that doesn’t decide the result,” he said.

“I hate sin bins at the best of times let alone in an Origin. I don’t think there was ever a warning here. He just got four or five in the space of a minute and then just had enough and sent him off.”

Maroons icon Paul Vautin said referee Ashley Klein should never have awarded the original ruck infringement penalties that preceded Kaufusi’s foul play.

“It was five in a row. It is a gee up,” he said.

“No-one know what they are for. No-one here knows. No-one at home knows. We don’t know and we’re so called experts.”

Former Maroons captain Darren Lockyer said after the game: “It is a big loss for Queensland. It is going to hurt. But that will help in Game 3.

“The sin bin was the turning point. It sucked all the juice out of Queensland. But they have played well tonight, the Blues. Well done to them. But Queensland will be back.”

‘They’re blowing up’: Queensland score controversial try

Queensland scored the first try of the game in the 25th minute in controversial circumstances.

Maroons forward Felise Kaufusi scored by running into a hole from a short pass by Queensland fullback Kalyn Ponga.

Replays showed Ponga’s classy pass appeared to travel forwards.

Blues defenders were screaming at the referee as Kaufusi went on to push past James Tedesco and dive over the try line.

“They’re blowing up,” Andrew Johns said of the NSW defenders.

‘I’ve never seen that’: Explosive start to Origin

Queensland set the tone right from their first defensive set with some crunching tackles.

First Tino Fa’asuamaleaui put Daniel Tupou on his backside and then Josh Papalii smashed Blues prop Payne Haas.

Rugby league immortal Andrew Johns said: “Never seen that before. Never seen Payne Haas driven back like that”.

Blues massive selection gamble worries Queensland

NSW is sticking with Api Koroisau at No. 9, rolling the dice on dropping Damien Cook onto the bench.

The teams were confirmed one hour before kick-off with neither team making any changes to the sides announced earlier.

Queensland coach Billy Slater said just minutes before kick-off the selection of Koroisau was a big boost to the Blues.

“I see a huge strength in their dummy half position,” he said.

“Firstly with Api Koroisau starting the game, he’s got a great craft around dummy half area and then we’re anticipating Damien Cook to come on somewhere late in that first half.

“So when he gets there, he’s an explosive runner. So that’s what we’ve worked hard on this week. It will be a big strength of their game.”

Blues guarantee Fittler a job no matter what

Brad Fittler has enough runs on the board to be spared the axe, even if Queensland completes a huge Origin series upset on Sunday night.

The Roosters and Panthers legend has stuck his neck out with a selection shake-up for Game 2.

The axe fell on Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tariq Sims, Kotoni Staggs and Ryan Matterson, while Jack Wighton is out with Covid.

Fittler has called in Jake Trbojevic to start at prop Matt Burton in the centres, while Angus Crichton and Siosifa Talakai move to the bench and Api Koroisau has been promoted to starting hooker.

But regardless of whether the gamble pays off or not, Freddy is going nowhere.

Fittler is contracted as NSW coach for the 2023 series and can extend the contract for a further 12 months through to the end of 2024 if he leads the Blues to a series win this year or next year.

“What Freddy has delivered to our organisation since his appointment as coach has been nothing short of outstanding,” NSWRL boss Dave Trodden told The Sydney Morning Herald.

“He’s delivered consistent success, and always had the self-confidence to do things his way. All I will say is, underestimate him at your peril.”

Fittler is contracted as NSW coach for 2023 and can activate a clause to coach again in 2024 if he wins one more series, either this year or next.

Will Freddy’s Panthers gamble pay off?

Brad Fittler made seven changes to his squad and five to his 17 after being upstaged by the Maroons in Game I.

The axe fell on Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Tariq Sims, Kotoni Staggs and Ryan Matterson, while Jack Wighton is out with Covid.

Fittler has called in Jake Trbojevic to start at prop Matt Burton in the centres, while Angus Crichton and Siosifa Talakai move to the bench and Api Koroisau has been promoted to starting hooker.

Trbojevic isn’t playing his preferred position of lock but he switched to prop for game two in 2019 when the Blues responded with an emphatic 38-6 victory.

But the biggest gamble is dropping Damien Cook to the bench for Koroisau as NSW look to replicate the one-two punch Queensland delivered with Ben Hunt and Harry Grant in the series opener.

“Any time the team loses I will take that personally and I definitely didn’t play well,” Cleary said after Game I.

“It is a lesson. I can’t change it now, but I can change what I do leading into the next Origin.

“In Origin you have got to take your moments. I thought Cam and Daly did really well, so I have got to do what they did.”


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