Billy Slater puts the onus on the referees after a controversial sin-bin call. Video / NRL on Nine
Queensland coach Billy Slater moved to correct a reporter during a strangely unperturbed press conference following his team’s crushing loss to NSW in Perth on Sunday.
The 2022 State of Origin series is now headed to a series decider in Brisbane after the Blues ran away with a 28-point win — the Blues’ equal fourth biggest winning margin in Origin’s 42-year history.
NSW steamrolled Queensland in a second-half mauling with Nathan Cleary leading the way as NSW scored five tries in 24 minutes.
Most of the key performance measurements were off-the-charts bad for Queensland.
They missed 60 tackles, had just 39 per cent of possession and had a combined total of 1047m run compared to NSW’s 1805m.
Slater and captain Daly Cherry-Evans then had to front the press after the game — but their attitude was far cooler and calmer than the statistics would have suggested.
A reporter asked Cherry-Evans if the score blow out was “an embarrassment for Queensland”.
He responded: “Geez, they are big words and there’s a lot of titles and headlines the media like to put on certain performances.
“The reality is that is what happened, that was the scoreline. These are my teammates, there is not one person that didn’t try their hardest out there tonight. It probably looked like we lost a fair bit of concentration for 30 minutes but I can’t question the effort we put out there.”
The pair were also asked if Queensland players had “thrown in the towel” in the second half.
Several minutes later, Slater was asked another question, but he instead elected to go back and address the question that was first put to Cherry-Evans, cautioning the reporter about suggestions the team lacked effort.
“Going back on the embarrassment thing, I think Queensland will be proud of their team, they put in a whole heap of effort Queensland would be proud,” he said.
“It’s 1-1 in the series and the series will go back to Brisbane, that’s not going to win us the game unless we fix up these concentration errors. They tried really hard, you can’t fault their effort.
“Queensland has always been about effort so they’ll stick together.”
Slater refused to blame the referees for the final score and shrugged off some of the controversial calls that had some commentators, including Queensland legends Paul Vautin and Darren Lockyer, wanting answers.
The most controversial moment came just before half time when Felise Kaufusi was sent to the bin.
Kaufusi was flopping on the ground trying to slow down Junior Paulo playing the ball near the try line and was penalised. It was the third straight ruck infringement by Queensland and Kaufusi paid the price for it.
Rugby league guru Phil Gould was not happy about the decision to send Kaufusi to the bin.
“I’m disappointed in the sin bin for the game’s sake but let’s hope that doesn’t decide the result,” he said.
“I hate sin bins at the best of times let alone in an origin. I don’t think there was ever a warning here. He just got four or five in the space of a minute and then just had enough and sent him off. “
Maroons icon Vautin said referee Ashley Klein should never have awarded the original ruck infringement penalties that preceded Kaufusi’s foul play.
“It was five in a row. It is a gee up,” he said.
“No-one know what they are for. No-one here knows. No-one at home knows. We don’t know and we’re so called experts.”
Former Maroons captain Darren Lockyer said after the game: “It is a big loss for Queensland. It is going to hurt. But that will help in Game 3.
“The sin bin was the turning point. It sucked all the juice out of Queensland. But they have played well tonight, the Blues. Well done to them. But Queensland will be back.”
Optus Stadium has become a house of horrors for Queensland with a combined score of 82-18 for NSW in the two matches that have been played at the venue.