TEAMLISTS: NRL Telstra Premiership - 2021 Round 6
2 days ago | LeagueUnlimited Media
Blues return home to keep series alive
As far as upsets go, the Maroons' 18-14 victory in Adelaide is among the best. Although for Origin regulars the result was hardly a surprise. Ever since Arthur Beetson started the rot 40 years ago, underdog Queensland outfits have habitually wriggled free of the Blues' grasp.
The good news for NSW is that Brad Fittler coached the side out of an identical mess last year. Still blessed with the more experienced side on paper, the biggest obstacle for Fittler is the supersized brain of Wayne Bennett. Down 10-0 last week, Queensland were treading water until the Super Coach's wisdom broke the shackles after the break.
In a man of the match performance, skipper Daly Cherry-Evans alongside opportunist Cameron Munster carried out Bennett's plan and steered the Maroons to an unlikely series lead. Now minus the distraction of club competition, Queensland will land at ANZ Stadium brimming with confidence.
The Blues by comparison appear in disarray. Dual series winning captain Boyd Cordner has succumbed to a spate of head knocks while Luke Keary's axing underlines the uncertainty in the halves. James Tedesco will lead NSW for the first time in a side that sees Cody Walker return to partner Nathan Cleary, a year after being shown the door following the Blues' Game One defeat.
In another blow, NSW will also be without workaholic backrower Cameron Murray. Angus Crichton has been named to start in place of Cordner while Payne Haas will run on this week in place of Junior Paulo who starts from the bench. Premiership winner Dale Finucane returns to Origin, and he'll be joined on the bench by first gamers Isaah Yeo and Nathan Brown.
While the attention is on Fittler, Bennett too has concerns. Form fullback AJ Brimson misses out due to a foot injury which has opened the door for Cowboy Valentine Holmes to resume his five-game, eight-try Origin career. Upfront, reliable prop Christian Welch misses out due to concussion, in his place 30-year-old journeyman Dunamis Lui is set to make his Maroons debut.
After a strong series opener from the bench, Jaydn Su'A will start in place of Coen Hess who has been omitted from the 17. In the only other change from Adelaide, New Zealand born Titans front rower Moeaki Fotuaika will earn his first cap from the interchange.
Unsung Queensland gamebreaker Kurt Capewell has retained his place at centre despite finishing last week's victory with a groin strain. Should the Panthers' utility fail to beat the clock, Brenko Lee is tipped to fill the void.
Gerard Sutton will control the game in what will be the whistleblower's 18th consecutive Origin contest.
Last meeting: Game I 2020 - QLD 18 NSW 14
Who to watch: NSW were better for Cody Walker's spark from the bench. Now named at six, Walker hasn't been chosen for his kicking game. For Fittler, it'll be run Rabbitoh run just like in South Sydney's late season surge. In Cleary and Walker, the pair topped the NRL season for try assists. But with little game time together, there's a danger each waits for the other to shine without backing themselves until the moment has gone. In sacking Keary, Fittler's message should be clear, and with Walker chipping away on the front foot expect Damien Cook to shine in a tandem performance.
When Cameron Munster swooped on a loose ball for what turned out to be the match clinching try, there were no signs of the knee injury that threatened his NRL finals campaign. Playing behind an unsung pack riding high after the Adelaide upset, Munster's bounce and fend either side of Cherry-Evans' composure is sure to test the Blues' defence still scarred by several one-on-one game defining misses.
The favourite: Betting agencies have dismissed the Maroons' Adelaide upset and predict the Blues will force a series decider at Suncorp.
My tip: Up 10-0 last week, NSW looked specials to score next, but as Queensland often do, they scrapped and came back from the dead. While the Maroons committed to a strategy, a clueless Blues looked paralysed by their own hype in a pedestrian second half. Now on home turf where they hold an 18 from 28 advantage, expect NSW to deliver a sustained effort before heading to Brisbane in pursuit of a third consecutive series win. Blues by 8.
1. James Tedesco 2. Daniel Tupou 3. Clinton Gutherson 4. Jack Wighton 5. Josh Addo-Carr 6. Cody Walker 7. Nathan Cleary 8. Daniel Saifiti 9. Damien Cook 10. Payne Haas 11. Angus Crichton 12. Tyson Frizell 13. Jake Trbojevic 14. Dale Finucane 15. Junior Paulo 16. Nathan Brown 17. Isaah Yeo
1. Valentine Holmes 2. Xavier Coates 3. Kurt Capewell 4. Dane Gagai 5. Phillip Sami 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Jake Friend 10. Josh Papali'i 11. Felise Kaufusi 12. Jaydn Su'A 13. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 14. Ben Hunt 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Jai Arrow 17. Moeaki Fotuaika
Referees: Gerard Sutton; Sideline Officials: Chris Butler, Todd Smith; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy;