Viewers explode at ‘biased’ Gus Gould
A BRAVE Blues side resisted everything Queensland threw at it to win Game 2 and claim just its second Origin series victory in 13 years.
NSW overcame the Maroons 18-14 at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Sunday night to go 2-0 up in the series and give rookie coach Brad Fittler the perfect start to his time in charge.
Here are all the talking points from the match.
GUS BLASTED FOR ORIGIN BLUE
Channel 9's Phil Gould was slammed for his commentary when the video referee was deliberating whether or not to award NSW a penalty try.
When Ben Hunt changed direction and knocked Boyd Cordner to the ground after half-an-hour the Blues skipper was denied the chance to chase a James Maloney grubber into the in-goal.
With no fullback in sight, the on-field referees went upstairs so see whether Cordner was a lock to get to the ball first and score NSW's second try of the match. While the officials pondered what call to make, Gould - a former NSW coach - was in no doubt what the correct call was.
Almost immediately he said it was without doubt a penalty try - and he said it at least a handful of times after that.
"Should be a sin bin and should be a penalty try," Gould added. "He was easily going to get there. Easily."
Again, that was a sentiment he repeated several times before saying: "Come on, Mr Video referee. It's a penalty try. No risk."
A penalty try was eventually awarded - the first time that's happened in Origin since 1981 - but Gould was blasted on social media for his one-sided coverage.
I know this isn’t news...but Phil Gould’s barracking is utterly unprofessional. If he wants to be in the coach’s box not the commentary box he should sit there.#StateOfOrigin— Richard Hinds (@rdhinds) June 24, 2018
Shouldn’t be surprised, but really, the biased 9 commentary from Phil Gould & Co is pathetic. #origin— Bill McDonald (@billmcdonald07) June 24, 2018
He shouldn’t be such an integral part of the telecast. Would be fine if a QLDer also had the same amount of air time.— Daniel Donnelly (@danpatdon) June 24, 2018
Aussie basketball star Patty Mills - who plays for the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA - also took aim at Gould later in the first half when he called a play by Queensland five-eighth Cameron Munster, who stopped dead in his tracks before exploding off the mark and passing to Greg Inglis 20m out from NSW's line.
"Watch it, he will put them to sleep. Puts them to sleep - looks for the left foot step, now goes out, basketball pass over the top. That's brilliant. That is really brilliant," Gould said. "Usually he will stand there, put them to sleep and come up with the big left foot step. On this occasion, he put them to sleep and then went to the outside."
Mills hit back at the 59-year-old's call.
Munster should put you to sleep Phil Gould— Patrick Mills (@Patty_Mills) June 24, 2018
YOUNG GUN MAKES HIS MARK
Queensland whiz-kid Kalyn Ponga was nothing if not enthusiastic when he entered the Origin fay for the first time - but he made the wrong kind of impact to start with.
The Cowboys freak came off the bench after 30 minutes but he will want to forget his first meaningful contribution in a maroon jersey. Keen to make his presence felt, he raced off the line to make a tackle but was pinged for offside.
NSW took a tap 15m out from Queensland's tryline and Ponga missed another tackle on centre James Roberts in the ensuing set. Then life got worse when James Maloney put through a grubber and Ben Hunt knocked Boyd Cordner over, which led to the penalty try that gave the Blues a 12-10 lead.
Ponga played at a Maloney grubber 10 minutes into the second half which Maloney regathered and the Blues had six more tackles. NSW made Queensland pay when James Tedesco passed to Latrell Mitchell, who crashed over for a four-pointer close to the line.
But after those early jitters Ponga showed why he's going to play Origin for the next 10 years. Probably expecting to play a bit-part role off the bench, he ended up playing 50 minutes in the unfamiliar position of lock and did himself proud.
He showed incredible toughness to defend in the front line - something he's not used to doing playing at fullback in club land - and made 30 tackles. Ponga also ran for over 100m, which included a scintillating linebreak late in the second half where he narrowly missed out on skipping past NSW No. 1 James Tedesco.
Queensland has been rocked by the retirements of several legends but the future is in safe hands with Ponga at the helm.
On a side note, not looking forward to having to come up against young Ponga for the next 15 years. Not only a ridiculous skill set but proved he’s as tough as nails too— Anthony Petrie (@Antpetrie17) June 24, 2018
BILLY SLATER PUTS ON A MASTERCLASS
It only took minutes for Queensland to realise how much it missed Billy Slater in Origin 1.
The Melbourne fullback made his return from a hamstring injury in Sydney and was in absolutely everything in the first 20 minutes as the Maroons threatened to break the line nearly every set of six.
Slater linked up beautifully with Valentine Holmes a couple of times on the left edge as the nervous NSW right side defence of James Roberts and Tom Trbojevic had trouble dealing with the added threat.
Slater set up Holmes for the first try of the match and also showed he was just as valuable on the right edge, getting involved in a second-man play that caught NSW out and paved the way for Dane Gagai to make it 10-0.
Early in the second half the No. 1 created something out of nothing when a sublime one-handed pass to Holmes from a kick return sent the winger into open space and sparked a promising counter-attack.
Slater was all class to the very end. Kalyn Ponga showed how exciting a prospect he is but the future Queensland fullback has big boots to fill - and never was that more evident than on Sunday night.
ROCKS AND DIAMONDS FROM LATRELL MITCHELL
Latrell Mitchell started the night by channelling his inner Gorden Tallis and trying to drag a Queenslander over the sideline - but with less success than the Raging Bull in 2002.
Tallis rag-dolling NSW fullback Brett Hodgson into touch has gone down in Origin folklore. Mitchell's effort won't - he was penalised because the referee had already called held - but it gave us a taste of what was to come from the NSW centre.
Mitchell - playing just his second Origin match - came of age in some respects, but in other areas showed he still has a lot to learn. He showed all the strength that's seen him compared to Greg Inglis when he steamrolled his way over his defender for a try from a couple of metres out when James Tedesco gave him the ball from dummy-half.
That the man standing in his way was Australian centre Will Chambers - a representative veteran Paul Gallen called "one of the best defensive centres I have seen" - only made the feat more impressive.
Without the ball Mitchell was just as potent. He smashed Cameron Munster - one of the hardest men to tackle in the entire NRL - in the second half and that defensive pressure pushed Queensland into a panicked play when he rushed up again in the next set.
The Maroons forced passes they shouldn't have and ended up throwing the Steeden over the sideline.
"That was Latrell's last tackle. They are not sure if he is going to sprint in," Phil Gould said. "The man catching the ball, Billy Slater, says, 'I have to get rid of it.'
"In the first half they were just letting them run at them. Latrell Mitchell with one big hit has put Queensland in two minds."
But among the diamonds were a couple of rocks. From a quick 20m restart on the hour mark Mitchell lost the ball in his desperation to get a pass to his outside man Josh Addo-Carr, gifting Queensland possession in dangerous territory.
He then came up with a poor defensive read, rushing up when he didn't need to and the Maroons took advantage of the resulting overlap as Valentine Holmes scored a try to bring the visitors back within four points.
Five minutes later Mitchell burst through the line after bouncing off Ben Hunt but his one-handed flick pass intended for Addo-Carr went behind the winger and into touch.
But Brad Fittler chose his outside backs based on the attacking threat they presented and Mitchell showed he's going to be a handful for Queensland defensive lines for many years to come.
START OF A DYNASTY?
The biggest talking point before the series opener was the amount of new blood in the NSW camp.
The number of debutants was in double figures as the Blues - led by a new coach in Brad Fittler - turned over a new leaf. The fresh brigade got the job done in Origin I and did the same in Game 2 in Sydney, giving fans south of the border hope this may be the start of something special.
Rookies like Tom Trbojevic, Josh Addo-Carr, Nathan Cleary, Latrell Mitchell, Jack de Belin and Damien Cook all played starring roles in the series win and have the potential to form the backbone of a NSW side aiming to create its own dynasty in an era where Queensland will be without icons Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater.