Queensland coach Billy Slater has 56 massive headaches leading into the State of Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.
That’s the number of tackles the Maroons missed in the 44-12 humiliation by the Blues in Perth on Sunday night – the most by a Queensland team for many years.
The Maroons were in the game at halftime but the famed Queensland defensive wall crumbled in the second half as the Blues ran in five unanswered tries – several with ridiculous ease.
When the Blues lost game one by just a handful of points, coach Brad Fittler reacted savagely, making a host of changes.
But with a smaller talent pool to pick from, Slater doesn’t have that luxury and will be unlikely to fine tune his team to any great extent.
The biggest worry he faces is the defence out wide, where the Blues ran amok in the second stanza.
Centres Dane Gagai and Val Holmes missed a massive 12 tackles between them – and will face another examination of their credentials at Suncorp where the Blues are certain to target them.
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Kayln Ponga at fullback made two tackles and missed three – most of which led to tries.
Blues halves Jarome Luai and man-of-the-match Nathan Cleary waltzed in for three soft solo tries between them – tries we don’t often see in Origin football.
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Queensland did have excuses – they conceded a vital try and burned up plenty of petrol during Felise Kaufusi’s controversial sin bin stint and the Blues enjoyed the majority of field position and possession.
But Queensland teams of old would have gritted their teeth and dug in, not giving away cheap tries.
The Blues now travel to Brisbane with all the momentum and all the confidence.
Rookie coach Slater has three weeks to turn it around – and it will be a huge test of his capabilities with the clipboard.
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