Under pressure after an upset home defeat in the opener, an aggressive NSW ran their bitter rivals ragged in game two in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 60,000 fans on a crisp and clear night at Perth’s Optus Stadium.
After a see-saw first stanza, the Blues ran in five of their seven tries in a blistering second half to easily prevail on a greasy surface, where players numerously slipped over but conditions failed to dampen the high-octane spectacle.
The desperate Blues made seven changes for the must-win clash after a 16-10 defeat in a tense opener in Sydney.
The move paid dividends, particularly the inclusion of Api Koroisau who was brilliant as starting hooker after getting the nod over Damien Cook.
The series decider will be played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on July 13.
“We were more brutal and hungry. There were no second chances,” said NSW captain James Tedesco.
“It’s very pleasing and we’ll enjoy the win but it’s going to be a big test at Suncorp.”
Queensland gamely withstood NSW’s expected early onslaught before running out of gas in a reality check for rookie coach Billy Slater, who is considered one of the greatest players ever.
“We tried to match their energy in the first half but they were too good... they had the ball too much and scored points,” said Queensland star Cameron Munster.
A pumped-up Blues side went on the attack from the get-go but the Maroons weathered the assault and slowly gained ascendancy, which was rewarded when Felise Kaufusi burst through to produce the opening try.
The Blues regrouped through the deadly boot of Nathan Cleary, whose deft kick allowed debutant Matt Burton to steam through and score his first try in Origin.
The manic action continued when the speed of full-back Kalyn Ponga set up a Munster try as Queensland regained the lead.
But their momentum was stymied when Kaufusi was controversially sent to the sin bin for holding down in the tackle and NSW took advantage with Brian To’o finishing off a slick pass from Burton to give the Blues a slim two-point lead at the long break.
NSW’s confidence spilt into the second stanza when a Daniel Tupou try broke the game open before consecutive tries to a dominant Cleary had under pressure coach Brad Fittler standing from his seat and celebrating with gusto.
It was just the second time the showpiece event has headed to Western Australia, which hasn’t had a professional rugby league team in 25 years in a state where the dominant football code is Australian Rules.
NSW will be hoping that history repeats itself: in 2019, a 38-6 game two victory in Perth powered them to a famous come-from-behind series victory.