Origin fight takes gloss off Queensland win
A body blow was delivered to NSW's hopes of winning their first State of Origin series since 2005, however, it was a second half fight that threatened to take the gloss off Queensland's gutsy 26-6 game two win on Wednesday night.
NSW skipper Paul Gallen said it was embarrassing that Queensland's four-tries-to-one victory had been overshadowed by four players being sinbinned in the 54th minute under the NRL's new hardline stance on fighting.
Ironically the NRL put their foot down on players raising their fists to ensure headlines would not be hogged for all the wrong reasons following Gallen's belting of Queensland forward Nate Myles in NSW's 14-6 game one win.
However, the topic on everyone's lips post-match was a crunch Origin clash being reduced to 11-a-side "touch football" following the second half binning of Queensland's Justin Hodges and Brent Tate and NSW duo Trent Merrin and Greg Bird.
Rival coaches Laurie Daley and Mal Meninga implored the NRL to re-think their "one punch and you're off" rule but Gallen's response was more direct.
"It's embarrassing really, isn't it?" he said.
"The game has been so great for 108 years, for them (NRL) to change it ...
"Origin is a tough game. No one goes out there to fight but sometimes that is the x-factor in the game."
Instead of a get square with Gallen in game two, Queensland looked intent on getting even, jumping to a 18-0 lead by the 48th minute.
However, the mood changed dramatically after Queensland fullback Billy Slater was placed on report for appearing to lash out with his elbow when tackled by Mitchell Pearce, opening up a cut under the NSW halfback's eye.
Barely 60 seconds later, Merrin took exception to Tate pushing Gallen off Johnathan Thurston in a tackle and clearly punched the Queensland winger in the face, prompting a melee.
When the dust settled, four players were marched under the NRL's new hardline stance - much to both teams' disgust.
Post-match, Slater was cleared with accidental contact but Hodges was later slapped with grade one contrary conduct however can escape a ban if he takes an early plea.
Bird also walked away however Merrin looks set to miss a week with a grade one striking charge.
Queensland coach Meninga asked the NRL to reconsider the rule but believed it should be decided by a fan poll on the topic.
"It's a bit ridiculous to be honest with you," he said of the sin bins.
"I know we are trying to clean the game up and we have certain responsibilities.
"Certainly Tatey didn't deserve to be sent off for pushing someone.
"But at the end of the day it is a game of rugby league, and as an ex-player I find it silly the way the rule has gone."
Queensland captain Cameron Smith said an Origin game of 11 on 11 was "not what the fans want".
"It's like touch footy really," he said.
NSW coach Daley hinted that action should have been taken on Slater but wanted the NRL to reconsider the rule.
"I think what happened was our boys got riled because Mitchell copped an elbow off Billy and nothing happened (no binning)," he said.
"It's a tough sport, things go astray. But no one goes out there to start a fight."
But Daley added: "Queensland were too good, no excuses, we move on. We've earned the right to go into game three."