James Tedesco says there will be a team who arrives in Brisbane with their backs to the wall.
Just which side that will be is anyone’s guess. The prospect of a decider at Suncorp Stadium suggests it has to be Tedesco and the NSW Blues looking to beat the odds on July 13.
But that same NSW team just scored 36 unanswered points to demolish Queensland in Perth, levelling the series at 1-1 and silencing questions about Brad Fittler’s selections, Nathan Cleary’s skill, and the perception of panic south of the Tweed.
So maybe it’s the Maroons who have their backs to the wall despite a home ground advantage. Because Billy Slater’s honeymoon period is over and, the Blues should head to Brisbane armed with the best playmaker in the game after Cleary’s man of the match performance on Sunday night.
“It was unwarranted criticism after the first game but that just shows what a champion player he is,” Tedesco told Channel Nine.
“He comes back out in game two and puts on a clinic with a lot of pressure on him. We were a lot hungrier. We spoke about that during the week. We had to be more brutal, more hungry, there was no second chances this time.
“I felt like we came out and we did that. Our discipline let us down in the first half but that second half was really pleasing.
“It was probably a bit too structured in that first half, but in the second half we just played footy. Everyone was pushing for each other, genuine support, offloads ... that’s when opportunities come, off the back of that.”
Cleary scored two tries in two minutes during the Blues’ second-half blitz. Queensland routinely fell off tackles, missing 60 as they crumbled through NSW’s sheer weight of possession which landed at 61 per cent. Their woes went far beyond Felise Kaufusi’s stint in the sin-bin.
“They were just too good. We tried to match their energy in the first half and we did that. In the second half, it was really tough with [Felice Kaufusi] off the field. We dug deep for those eight to 10 minutes and it took a toll on us,” Maroons five-eighth Cameron Munster said.
“When they have the ball for too much obviously they score points. We were poor. It took a toll with ‘Fus’ going for 10, it was a big moment in the game. Fingers crossed we can obviously go a lot better, we can improve and hopefully be better in game three.”
They have to be better. Because right now, the Maroons have their backs to the wall. Then again, maybe the Blues do too.