ANDREW JOHNS – NINEMSN COLUMN

Sin bin debacle made mockery of Origin

The NRL has to eat some humble pie and reverse its crackdown on violence in State of Origin before the game’s premier showpiece is turned into the laughing stock of world sport. What happened last night in Origin II was nothing short of embarrassing for the game. Four players were sent to the sin bin after what was only a minor scuffle and one of the biggest matches of the year was turned into an 11-a-side debacle.

Rugby League prides itself on being one of the toughest sports in the world. State of Origin has a global audience all tuned in to see a fierce sporting contest. To bin Brent Tate for a shove, Justin Hodges for trying to stop Trent Merrin from belting Tate and Greg Bird for simply being in the area was ridiculous. Having an all-in jersey grab and shoving match was embarrassing enough without taking four players out of the game for it. Not that it made much difference to the result, Queensland were just awesome.

I was with Darren Lockyer when Cameron Smith won the toss and elected to receive the kick-off. We looked at each other and knew something was on, because in Origin, teams always want to kick-off to get down in the opponent’s half and put in some big defensive shots early. Queensland decided that the best form of attack was attack and set out to run the ball hard and make big metres early.

Sam Thaiday led the way with some bullocking charges mostly aimed at Blues five-eighth James Maloney. The Maroons received an early penalty and before New South Wales had touched the ball, Thaiday crashed over for a try and a 6-0 lead.

The Maroons really stepped up their intensity and blokes like Johnathan Thurston and Greg Inglis were a class above, but I still think Corey Parker was the best player on the field. Parker has improved remarkably over the last few years. He has really gone from a solid club player to being one of the elite forwards in the game. His offloads and work rate in Origin II really helped carry Queensland in raid after raid on the Blues line.

Smith was another to stand out, as would be expected from the game’s best hooker. Smith plays the game like he is watching it from the grand stand. He has so much time and such great vision for all that is happening out there. When he is at his best, as he was in Origin II, he completely controls the game.

For all that they had to withstand, at one point Queensland had 80 percent of possession, I thought the Blues did well to only be down 14-0 at half time. The problem was, the Maroons were never going to relax in the second half, they just kept coming.

Poor Nathan Merritt was obviously targeted. Inglis would have known that his Rabbitohs teammate loves to come in and snuff out the sweeping runners in decoy plays. That’s a great move when it comes off, but when you have a player of Thurston’s class pulling the trigger it doesn’t take much for it to go horribly wrong.

Jarryd Hayne is only a couple of running sessions away from returning, so I think he’ll be right for game three and will probably come into the wing position replacing Merritt. Josh Dugan was the best player out there for New South Wales so he’ll have to play in the decider and I’d keep him at fullback. The only other change I would make would be to bring a fourth forward onto the bench, probably James Tamou. I think the Blues need some extra fire power in the middle of the park.

The decider in Sydney will be incredible. I only hope the NRL sorts out its strategy for combating brawls before then, because what we saw last night simply wasn’t acceptable.

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