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Without Cleary and Luai, are the NSW Blues really that good at all?

GongPanther

Referee
Messages
23,818
Tim Gore

7-8 minutes


Only seven times in the 40-year history of three-game State of Origin series has a side won three-nil.

After putting 76 points to six on the Queenslanders in the first two games, the odds were very good that the 2021 NSW Blues would be the eighth side to go through a series undefeated.
A true champion side – like the 1986, 1996 and 2000 NSW Blues, or the 1988, 1989, 1995 and 2010 Queensland Maroons – would surely have finished off such a clearly prone opponent.Such was their dominance, the Blues’ total of 76 points scored in the first two games of the 2021 series is more points than was scored in 11 of the previous Origin series in total.

As well, all seven of the previous clean-sweeping sides had one big thing in common: they used very few players across the series.
The 2000 Blues side used just 21 players in total. The 2010 Maroons used 19. The 1986 Blues used 18 and the ’88 and ’95 Maroons, as well as the 1996 Blues, only used 17 players.
This series the Blues used just 21 players, with all four changes dictated by injury. However, two of those injuries were crucial to the success of the Cockroaches.

While the injuries to Jake Trbojevic and Daniel Saifiti weren’t ideal, there were ready replacements in Dale Finucane and Angus Crichton able to step up. However, the injuries to Nathan Cleary and Jerome Luai were far harder to cover.

For the last two seasons Cleary and Luai have been outstanding for the Penrith Panthers, guiding the their side to 32 wins from 36 starts. This season they were selected as halves partners for the NSW Blues and it reaped massive dividends.

Yes, the Maroons were missing both Kalyn Ponga and Josh Papalii for Origin 1, and Harry Grant and Cam Munster went in very under done.
However, Cleary and Luai totally dominated both the first two games, sharing two try assists, one line break assist, four line breaks and 11 tackles breaks between them.

However, it was their guiding of the team around the park that was the most impressive thing. They knew exactly what they were doing at all times and consistently had their side in superb field position and their attacking plays looking venomous.

While the try-scoring dominance of fullbacks Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell in the centres took the headlines, it was Cleary and Luai who were the puppet masters pulling the strings. Their supreme skills were highlighted even more by the disjointed performance of Jack Wighton and the anonymous effort of Mitchell Moses in Game 3.

Jack Wighton has had a tough season: out of touch with the ball in hand, uncharacteristically struggling in defence and with a kicking game akin to Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

There was much trepidation in regard to his naming in the number six jersey by Brad Fittler. While Wighton’s kicking game in Origin 3 got off to a poor start, Wighton worked his way into the game, ending up with a try, a try assist and six tackle breaks. However, he is still a long way off his best form from the last two seasons.

While Mitchell Moses has 21 try assists for season 2021, he didn’t look even vaguely like he was any danger of leading the Blues’ attack to anything that resembled dangerous. All of a sudden Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic didn’t look anywhere near as dangerous. All of a sudden Queensland looked much better.

Don’t get me wrong, Moses and Wighton weren’t bad, they just weren’t Cleary and Luai. It is now clear to all paying attention just how good the Panthers’ halves combination actually is.

They are special.

They may be Kevin Walters and ‘Alfie’ Langer special.
Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny special.
Steve Mortimer and Terry Lamb special.
Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley special.

What those four legendary half/five-eighth combinations have in common is premierships: 14 in total between them in combination.
I won’t at all be surprised if Cleary and Luai have similar success in tandem at club level and with them at the helm of the NSW Blues it could be the beginning of quite a dynasty of success.

Without them on the field for Game 3, the Blues looked okay but not at all the rampant machine they were in the first two games.
Another issue with the Blues is that it took me until the second half of Game 3 to realise that James Tedesco was now the NSW captain.

Tedesco had a very strong series and is unquestionably a brilliant player. Further, his ability to be clean shaven at kick-off and then be sporting a three-day growth at full-time is unparalleled in the National Rugby League.

However, you have to question the overall leadership stocks of a side when he is the best option to take the helm – and he is.
We always knew that the Queenslanders would come out firing to avoid a clean sweep and they did.

The Queensland pack was back to their fearsome best, with Christian Welch and Josh Papalii really ripping in, ably supported by Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika and a rejuvenated Felise Kaufusi. They really laid a great platform for the Maroons’ victory, with Papalii playing over 60 minutes of game time.

They provided a great platform for the Maroons’ halves. Cam Munster had his usual busy game, doing his very best to annoy and harass his opponents by means fair and foul.

At halfback the much maligned Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans was very good, stepping up at crucial moments.
His kick in the 55th minute saw Josh Addo-Carr desperately and unsuccessfully try to stop a 40-20 and resulted in a repeat set for the Maroons that saw Ben Hunt score his first of two tries.

In the 67th minute a rampaging Tariq Sims had just Cherry-Evans between him and the try line. Cherry-Evans took Sims down brilliantly.

Yet the crowd still loudly booed Cherry-Evans when he went to the podium.
Maybe those deriding him were just frustrated that they hadn’t been able to watch Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai weaving their magic.
With those two in blue, NSW could be on the cusp of a dynasty of success.
However, without them, are the NSW Blues really that good at all?


Fair assessment given the obvious point that you have to rely on your halves to keep the engine running. The halves in game 3 was a fail although this combination was unfairly thrown in the deep end IMO. If Souths pairing of Reynolds and Walker play, NSW win by at least 40.
 

The_Frog

First Grade
Messages
5,374
The way Turbo caught cold for most of the game I'd suggest the heading is somewhat accurate. Mitchell went looking for the ball and so had a bigger impact but without Luai seeing opportunities for him out wide he was well handled for the most part.

Of course the Panthers are likely to be similarly impaired without them.
 
Messages
544
Blues lost the yardage game by only selecting 2 props and having 1 of them, Paulo, doing the donkey work he isnt suited to.

Compare that to the 4 Qld props who dominated the middle and you can see where NSW lost its effectiveness

Yet most will blame the halves....
 

Smug Panther

Bench
Messages
3,367
Blues lost the yardage game by only selecting 2 props and having 1 of them, Paulo, doing the donkey work he isnt suited to.

Compare that to the 4 Qld props who dominated the middle and you can see where NSW lost its effectiveness

Yet most will blame the halves....
Both were issues. Moses didn't get Tommy 1 on 1 with a rookie centre a single time. That is garbage
 
Messages
544
Both were issues. Moses didn't get Tommy 1 on 1 with a rookie centre a single time. That is garbage
Maybe but i think that had more to do with Capewell actually being played in a position where he is effective and can pressure the right side half to rush their plays. Qld contained Tommy out wide very well in Game 3, he only looked dangerous sniffing around the ruck
 

GongPanther

Referee
Messages
23,818
Of course the Panthers are likely to be similarly impaired without them.
As it has already been shown because it's strange how we saw the Panthers without Luai and Cleary V Tigers perform, yet nobody saw Wednesday's result coming.
 

Jim Rockford

Bench
Messages
3,082
I don't know the answer to the question are NSW any good without Cleary and Luai, but I do know the answer to the question are NSW any good with Moses and Wighton. That answer is an emphatic NO.
 

Valheru

Coach
Messages
13,593
A reynolds and keary combo would work really well as they mimic the game styles of cleary and luai respectively.

One is injured and the other was ignored by the spastic selectors.
 

Valheru

Coach
Messages
13,593
As it has already been shown because it's strange how we saw the Panthers without Luai and Cleary V Tigers perform, yet nobody saw Wednesday's result coming.
Well you are entitled to believe that NSW are going to have better back ups than the panthers and they do but they just didn't pick them.

Reynolds, walker and keary (injured of course) all better options than what was picked.
 

Big Pete

Referee
Messages
28,274
Cleary would have made a difference if only because he plays more direct with the football and is a stronger defender than Moses.

However the amount of criticism being dished out at the halves is excessive. The Blues didn't play badly they just missed a couple of opportunities and weren't as ruthless as they should have been.

The decision to take Cook off after the Wighton try and bring Koroisau on was ill-conceived. The Blues had some real fluency in the early stages of the second half whereas Koroisau didn't gel as effectively making it easier on the defence. Then on the otherside, Koroisau's lax defence from marker just allowed Hunt to get out and exploit Haas' weak goal line defence.

I don't blame Api for the loss, it was just a bad rotation at that stage of the game. Up by only 2 but with all the early momentum, keep it simple.

The loss of Saifiti was telling as well. He's fantastic at creating space around the ruck and is a weapon close to the line. They tried to play Finucane in that same role but it didn't suit his game and again just made it easier for the opposition defence. I was surprised that Freddy didn't call Campbell-Gillard into fill that role honestly. Since Klemmer is on the outer, it seemed like he'd be the obvious choice.

I don't think Game III was a case of NSW being overrated, rather it was a case of Queensland actually playing to their ability.
 

Sparktrader

Juniors
Messages
13
Tim Gore

7-8 minutes


Only seven times in the 40-year history of three-game State of Origin series has a side won three-nil.

After putting 76 points to six on the Queenslanders in the first two games, the odds were very good that the 2021 NSW Blues would be the eighth side to go through a series undefeated.
A true champion side – like the 1986, 1996 and 2000 NSW Blues, or the 1988, 1989, 1995 and 2010 Queensland Maroons – would surely have finished off such a clearly prone opponent.Such was their dominance, the Blues’ total of 76 points scored in the first two games of the 2021 series is more points than was scored in 11 of the previous Origin series in total.

As well, all seven of the previous clean-sweeping sides had one big thing in common: they used very few players across the series.
The 2000 Blues side used just 21 players in total. The 2010 Maroons used 19. The 1986 Blues used 18 and the ’88 and ’95 Maroons, as well as the 1996 Blues, only used 17 players.
This series the Blues used just 21 players, with all four changes dictated by injury. However, two of those injuries were crucial to the success of the Cockroaches.

While the injuries to Jake Trbojevic and Daniel Saifiti weren’t ideal, there were ready replacements in Dale Finucane and Angus Crichton able to step up. However, the injuries to Nathan Cleary and Jerome Luai were far harder to cover.

For the last two seasons Cleary and Luai have been outstanding for the Penrith Panthers, guiding the their side to 32 wins from 36 starts. This season they were selected as halves partners for the NSW Blues and it reaped massive dividends.

Yes, the Maroons were missing both Kalyn Ponga and Josh Papalii for Origin 1, and Harry Grant and Cam Munster went in very under done.
However, Cleary and Luai totally dominated both the first two games, sharing two try assists, one line break assist, four line breaks and 11 tackles breaks between them.

However, it was their guiding of the team around the park that was the most impressive thing. They knew exactly what they were doing at all times and consistently had their side in superb field position and their attacking plays looking venomous.

While the try-scoring dominance of fullbacks Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell in the centres took the headlines, it was Cleary and Luai who were the puppet masters pulling the strings. Their supreme skills were highlighted even more by the disjointed performance of Jack Wighton and the anonymous effort of Mitchell Moses in Game 3.

Jack Wighton has had a tough season: out of touch with the ball in hand, uncharacteristically struggling in defence and with a kicking game akin to Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates.

There was much trepidation in regard to his naming in the number six jersey by Brad Fittler. While Wighton’s kicking game in Origin 3 got off to a poor start, Wighton worked his way into the game, ending up with a try, a try assist and six tackle breaks. However, he is still a long way off his best form from the last two seasons.

While Mitchell Moses has 21 try assists for season 2021, he didn’t look even vaguely like he was any danger of leading the Blues’ attack to anything that resembled dangerous. All of a sudden Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic didn’t look anywhere near as dangerous. All of a sudden Queensland looked much better.

Don’t get me wrong, Moses and Wighton weren’t bad, they just weren’t Cleary and Luai. It is now clear to all paying attention just how good the Panthers’ halves combination actually is.

They are special.

They may be Kevin Walters and ‘Alfie’ Langer special.
Peter Sterling and Brett Kenny special.
Steve Mortimer and Terry Lamb special.
Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley special.

What those four legendary half/five-eighth combinations have in common is premierships: 14 in total between them in combination.
I won’t at all be surprised if Cleary and Luai have similar success in tandem at club level and with them at the helm of the NSW Blues it could be the beginning of quite a dynasty of success.

Without them on the field for Game 3, the Blues looked okay but not at all the rampant machine they were in the first two games.
Another issue with the Blues is that it took me until the second half of Game 3 to realise that James Tedesco was now the NSW captain.

Tedesco had a very strong series and is unquestionably a brilliant player. Further, his ability to be clean shaven at kick-off and then be sporting a three-day growth at full-time is unparalleled in the National Rugby League.

However, you have to question the overall leadership stocks of a side when he is the best option to take the helm – and he is.
We always knew that the Queenslanders would come out firing to avoid a clean sweep and they did.

The Queensland pack was back to their fearsome best, with Christian Welch and Josh Papalii really ripping in, ably supported by Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika and a rejuvenated Felise Kaufusi. They really laid a great platform for the Maroons’ victory, with Papalii playing over 60 minutes of game time.

They provided a great platform for the Maroons’ halves. Cam Munster had his usual busy game, doing his very best to annoy and harass his opponents by means fair and foul.

At halfback the much maligned Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans was very good, stepping up at crucial moments.
His kick in the 55th minute saw Josh Addo-Carr desperately and unsuccessfully try to stop a 40-20 and resulted in a repeat set for the Maroons that saw Ben Hunt score his first of two tries.

In the 67th minute a rampaging Tariq Sims had just Cherry-Evans between him and the try line. Cherry-Evans took Sims down brilliantly.

Yet the crowd still loudly booed Cherry-Evans when he went to the podium.
Maybe those deriding him were just frustrated that they hadn’t been able to watch Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai weaving their magic.
With those two in blue, NSW could be on the cusp of a dynasty of success.
However, without them, are the NSW Blues really that good at all?


Fair assessment given the obvious point that you have to rely on your halves to keep the engine running. The halves in game 3 was a fail although this combination was unfairly thrown in the deep end IMO. If Souths pairing of Reynolds and Walker play, NSW win by at least 40.
40 points? Silly thing to say. Reynolds is slow and cant tackle.

Walker should have played though. Clearly inferior to Penrith halves so perhaps 10 points with slick passes. The NSW forwards were flat as noted, thats worth 10 points.

Plus ref dodgy slow play the balls.

Series win. Cleary back next year win again.
 

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