‘He's one of those players that you can't really stop, you can just contain.’
- Dylan Napa on Andrew Fifita
Queensland captain Cameron Smith has challenged his forward pack to back up their second-half performance in Game II and prove that they can match it with the Blues' big men for 80 minutes in this Wednesday's Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium.
On the back of inspirational second stints from prop forward Dylan Napa and lock Josh McGuire the XXXX Maroons were able to swing the tsunami of momentum running the way of the Blues and turn a 28-4 loss in Game I and a 16-6 deficit in Game II into an 18-16 win that kept the series alive.
Having registered just 23m from two carries in his first stint Napa announced himself on the Origin arena with 33 minutes in the second half that yielded 96m from nine carries while McGuire accumulated 85 of his 117m in the second term.
For the previous 140 minutes of the series the Blues forwards had run roughshod through the Queensland defence and Smith said it is up to his players to prove that their dominance through the middle has come to an end.
"I don't know if it's broken the stigma around them having a dominant forward pack. They have been quite dominant in this series," Smith said.
"I was just really proud of the way our blokes went about their business in the second half.
"We knew if we kept persisting at our game plan and chipping away at their forwards, we were going to get an opportunity and it happened for us.
Same, but longer
"Our mindset should be much the same this time.
"There's no doubt their guys are going to come up here and try to replicate what they did in Game I.
"We need to produce what we produced in the second half in Sydney for the entire match."
It’s my job – Napa
In the wake of Queensland's stunning comeback much of the credit for their resurgence went to Napa, credit the Roosters enforcer insists he is not deserving of.
Although admitting that he knew the moment required that he come on and make an impact, he said that he was merely doing what he had been brought into the team to do by coach Kevin Walters.
"I understood the time of the game and the momentum but I don't feel like I did anything spectacular," Napa said.
‘We really rallied together’
"It's just the game that I play. I feel like that's why I was picked so I didn't do anything spectacular.
"I just got the ball and ran hard and tried to swing momentum.
"I definitely wouldn't take the rap that I changed the momentum of the game, I feel that Josh McGuire made a huge difference when he came on.
"Not many players can make that pretty big run there in the second half to set up that try to change the momentum.
"There was a time and place to try and change gear and I feel like when the forwards came on in the second half we really did that.
"It was a big second half from the whole team but in particular the forwards. We really rallied together but in saying that I know the challenge ahead of the NSW pack.
"They'll be hurting from letting that lead go."
Mission: Control Fifita
After Andrew Fifita caused carnage through the middle third of the field in Game I the Maroons hatched a plan to limit his impact in Game II, having players such as Napa and young monster Coen Hess imitate his style in defensive training sessions.
In keeping the Sharks prop to 93 run metres and four tackle busts it was a plan that by and large worked well and one that Napa knows they will have to revisit leading into Game III.
"That will no doubt be the game plan, to minimise his impact," Napa said.
"He's one of those players that you can't really stop, you can just contain.
"We've got enough respect for their pack and their players that it's not a one-man job, it's definitely a 17-man job."