Maroons go down to Blues in Perth

After a week of intense criticism and questioning, Brad Fittler's controversial selections, and non-selections, have been justified after NSW kept the series alive with an emphatic 38-6 win against Queensland in Perth on Sunday night.

The Maroons were out-enthused by a NSW team that had spent an entire week working on working harder. More effort, Fittler wanted and effort he got.

James Maloney strolled into Blues camp exactly seven days ago, after repeatedly being snubbed in the weeks prior, asking the coach if he had lost his number.

However, the five-eighth's performance in the second game of the series at Optus Stadium will ensure his phone will be the first to ring in a week's time when the Blues gather for the decider at ANZ Stadium.

The next call will be to Tom Trbojevic, who bagged a hat-trick upon his return to the NSW side.

His selection in the centres was deemed a gamble by most, but not his coach.

Fittler wanted players that he knew, not hoped, would give him what he wanted. Trbojevic did that, and some.

Unfortunately the win may have come at a price with halfback Nathan Cleary lasting just 40 minutes before he succumbed to an ankle injury that has placed serious doubt over his position in the team for Game III.

It's likely Newcastle halfback Mitchell Pearce will get the chance to play the role of saviour in the decider, having ruled himself out of the opening two games of the series with a niggling hip / thigh injury.

Inspirational prop David Klemmer, who missed Game II with a broken wrist he suffered in the opening game of the series, is also expected to be fit to take his place in the NSW side.

In front of a stadium record crowd of 59,721, the Blues ensured they would head into the decider at ANZ Stadium on July 10 as favourites after putting on a clinic in the rain.

The Blues have now won the past three Origin games at a neutral venue, adding Perth to their victories in Melbourne in 2018 and 2015.

The Blues opened the match the more likely of the two teams, and after getting held up over the line in the early exchanges, Tom Trbojevic leapt above Kalyn Ponga to register first points of the match.

Fittler was desperate to reinstate the Manly fullback into the team after injury denied him in Game I, with Trbojevic only taking a few minutes to show why.

The Maroons points came when Will Chambers was awarded a penalty try after he was denied a genuine chance to chase down a Ben Hunt grubber from Blues centre Jack Wighton.

Queensland skipper Daly Cherry-Evans tried to argue for a Blues player to be sent to the sin bin, but it wouldn't be long before he had bigger problems on his hand when Maloney put Tyson Frizell over to take the Blues out to 12-6 lead.

Maloney, like Trbojevic, was repaying the faith shown by the coach and gave the Blues a golden opportunity to notch up their third try of the night when he landed a 40-20.

However, the Queenslanders did well to repel the Blues onslaught, earning another reprieve just before halftime when Maloney was called for a forward pass that denied Josh Addo-Carr a certain four-pointer.

Blues No.7 Cleary almost poked his nose through from the ensuing set, however a try-saving tackle from the Maroons saw the halfback's ankle give way underneath the weight.

Despite a heart-in-mouth moment for Fittler, his side gave him something to smile about just before the siren when James Tedesco got outside of Michael Morgan to put Trbojevic over untouched for his second try of the night.

For the second time in as many games, the Blues had a half sitting on the bench in the second half. This one, however, was forced as Cleary succumbed to the ankle injury he suffered earlier in the match.

It forced a reshuffle with Wade Graham moving into the halves, a position he started his career playing during his time at the Penrith Panthers.

Maloney also assumed the goal-kicking duties in Cleary's absence, knocking over a penalty goal early in the second half to push the Blues out to a 20-6 lead.

A dangerous tackle from Jarrod Wallace on Maloney while kicking soon after gifted the Blues No.6 another penalty goal, stretching the Blues' lead out to 16 points with 30 minutes on the clock remaining.

The speed of Addo-Carr saw him slice between Dane Gagai and Chambers and offload to Tedesco, before a magic flick pass from the Blues fullback put Trbojevic in under the post for his hat-trick and a 28-8 lead.

Graham then showed off his deft touch when he dropped one on to the boot to reward Addo-Carr for his toils throughout the match, pushing the Blues out to a 32-8 advantage.

Addo-Carr then put the icing on the cake when he finished off a backline play to bag his second of the night and send the Blues into party mode.

Queensland will look to regroup when they head to ANZ Stadium on July 10 for the decider.

This report first appeared on NRL.com