The Western Maroons have levelled the 2022 Vodafone Vanua State of Origin series after dominating the Eastern Blues 26-6 in game two at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori today.
Blues forward Sanaila Qorivatu broke out first galloping through a chink through the Maroons defensive line from halfway only to be bought short of the line.
A penalty was conceded by the too eager defence and the following quick tap had the Blues on the board first through centre Jone Ratulevu in the near left corner with nippy hooker and shotcaller Joeli Baleilevuka adding the two points from the outwide just five minutes in.
The Maroons were soon hindered and reduced to 12 men with winger Ratusela Nauci being sinbinned for 10 minutes for a dangerous hit.
The westerners attempt at an offensive was soon thwarted after a turned over ball caught the visitors to eager on defence and hooker Simeli Miramira also being sinbinned for a tip tackle as tensions flared nearing midway of the contest.
The Blues failed to take advantage of the situation and failed to utilize optimum ball.
The Maroons got points on the board through a successful penalty from five-eigth Joseva Vetaukula 20 metres outh less than 10 minutes to the breather.
The Maroons held fast in defence and after a quick sortie into the opposition 20 mertre, Vetaukula chipped the ball out into the left corner with centre Vilikesa Tuidama hounding through to dive on the ball to score.
The Maroons kept up the momentum forcing the series leaders to make mistakes in defence.
The following awarded penalty had Vetaukela convert successfully to send his side in the lead for the first time in the game with 36 minutes gone.
The Western Maroons led 8-6 at the break.
Vetaukela continued where he left off with another on target penalty conversion at the onset of the second half, as the Blues continued to infringe in the tackle area as they struggled to bring down their bigger counterparts.
The Blues woes continued soon after with right centre Viliame Temo being sent to the sinbin for foul play.
The western based outfit smelt blood in the water and continued to exploit the Blues indiscipline.
Vetaukula converted his fourth penalty from right in front of the sticks to give them a six point lead.
The Blues did not quit, and looked to make the most of what possession they had.
But the resilient Maroons defence kept their composure and aggressive big tackles dislodged the ball from the carrier on numerous occasions.
Tuidama almost ran away for a second try but was caught and shuffled into touch by the Blues defence.
Both teams struggled to maintain game patterns as the conditions underfoot became slippery due to the downpour earlier in the day.
Vetaukula added his fifth penalty in the dying minutes to put the game out of reach for the Blues, in a standout performance.
The Maroons added salt to the wound by crossing the tryline as the Blues defence withered with Vetaukula adding the two points putting them in front by 14 points with four minutes to go.
The Maroons sealed the win with a runaway try from Tuidama from the middle of the pitch to dive under the sticks with Vetaukula converting
The Blues had won game one of the Origin 19-14 in Nadi a fornight ago.
Eastern Blues- Jolame Vakaceguvinaka, Napolioni Kalouvatu, Jone Ratulevu, Viliame Temo, Eremasi Batibasaga, Laisiasa Karuya, Kelepi Komaisavou, Samuela Bukanisoqo, Joeli Baleilevuka, Waisale Masiqora, Anare Namali, Sanaila Qorivatu, Josese Yaya, Anisito Komai, Marika Waqatabu, Major Setareki, Josateki Bogidua, Tevita Leweni.
Western Maroons- Josua Soronakadavu, Kinijoji Namaka, Vilikesa Tuidama, Isaia Vuda, Ratusela Nauci, Joseva Vetaukula, Simeli Miramira, Inia Tobua, Naibuka Tuitakali, Etonia Saukuru, Akuila Bebe, Pauliasi Kuli, Kelevi Ralulu, Taniela Mali, Jone Sauvaka, Christopher Namaqa, Savenaca Saukuru, Waisiki Ramatau.
By Noa Biudole