The buildup to this game was moderate; nothing hung in the balance. This is probably the main factor in the disappointing performance, I'm sure others will agree, of the NSW team.
The regular media did their best to bring attention to the game with less necessary stories about the referee and the state of the pitch, but it was to no avail. Footage of men inspecting the ground in suits didn't fool anyone; you can't inspect the integrity of a playing surface in a suit and dress shoes.
The officialdom of the game wasn't ever an issue this evening. Nor was the sand. The issue tonight was the lack of effort indulged by one side. Queensland, to their credit, started the match with a spring in their step. Savage defence. Three men in each tackle and jarring shocks to each of the opposition foolhardy enough to be holding the ball. And on offence, they made streaking breaks while holding onto the ball. NSW were in a state of shock after 18 minutes, with the scoreline being 16-0. That's almost a point a minute, gentlemen. Queensland made you look bad.
After 22 minutes, both teams realised what was really going on, and nothing spectacular or even memorable happened between there and half-time. Just a series of runs, tackles and turnovers.
The restart of the second half was really the resumption of the inevitable for NSW. Just a matter of minutes until final defeat. But by how much? It was never really clear, especially after a neat try by Tahu and a conversion that changed the score to 16-6. Queensland started the second half by forcing NSW onto the back foot, but NSW recovered against the run of play. This is where the cup of joy is shattered for the Blues. From then on in, Queensland played strong football in all areas and forced some really bad mistakes.
NSW only came close one more time. But Johns threw a low pass to Timmins, who never really had a chance to scoop up the ball and do anything with it. Shortly before this, Price almost scored and magnificent runaway try, but was thwarted by a desperate defence and simply fell. Queensland didn't blow many opportunities, but this is one they really should have nailed.
The 4th, 5th and 6th tries were all impressive to look at. Try #5 seemed a little too easy; if NSW don't tackle, the will be scored against - this is the law of the jungle in football. Try #7 was a nice run of play. And by this time, with a little bit of time left, Queensland were looking to make NSW look as bad as possible, and making fine work of it. The conversion attempt following was not a big success, and finished the game at 36 - 6.
There was a very big difference tonight between how much each team was hungry for victory. This is not to say that all of the NSW team lacked lustre, or that all Queensland shone on like crazy diamonds. Minichiello, Mason and Johns (at times) did more than their fair share, and while no names come to mind from Queensland, let it be mentioned again and again that Gordon Tallis will leave an ugly skull when he's gone.
It's nothing personal.
Reviewed on Wednesday, 16 July 2003