AAP Rugby

Key factors to decide Origin II

By AAP Newswire

THE FIVE KEYS TO RUGBY LEAGUE'S STATE OF ORIGIN II

* KALYN PONGA - He might only get limited time off the bench, but whether Ponga finds a way to break open NSW will be crucial for Queensland. He leads the NRL for tackle busts (85) and linebreak assists (18) but Origin can be a different beast, especially on debut at age 20. NSW will aim to throw plenty of defenders at him but few have succeeded in shutting him down this year.

* JAMES TEDESCO - If James Tedesco can produce another game like he did in Melbourne, the Blues will be hard to stop. In arguably the best performance by a NSW fullback this decade, he finished the game with 13 tackle busts, two try assists and a try of his own. But he was also good in Game I last year before getting quieter as the series went on.

* THE MAROONS' MIDDLE - The job of stopping Tedesco and Blues dummy-half Damien Cook will fall squarely on Queensland's forwards. They couldn't prevent the pair from zipping through in Melbourne and their work led to the Blues scoring two of their four tries from long range. The Maroons pack is young, but if they can't tighten up the series might be over.

* JAMES MALONEY - Maloney is one of the most accomplished halves at NRL level but he's yet to taste real success in representative football. That can all change on Sunday night. Maloney showed the composure of greats in Melbourne when he rebounded from two early errors to have a hand in all the Blues' tries. If he can do that in Sydney, he might finally have an Origin series win on his fourth attempt.

* LINE SPEED - It didn't hurt them as much as it could have in Melbourne, but NSW coach Brad Fittler was quick to raise the issue of the Maroons' faster line speed in Game I. Queensland regularly punished NSW's back five in defence and held them to their own end as the game became a tug-of-war, while the Blues couldn't do the same. Queensland will seek to better exploit the same advantage in Sydney, where the forwards' battle has traditionally been even more important.