Shoulders and the Blues No.2 jersey don’t seem to mix, but the players wearing them seem to become bulletproof for 80 minutes at least. When Brett Morris handed Will Hopoate his wing jersey at the team’s presentation on Wednesday morning, chances are he wished him better luck than Morris had in game one after he fractured his shoulder. Morris played on. So, too, did Hopoate who was left with a dangling arm for the second half after requiring a painkilling injection at half-time.
The dangling arm may have dented Hopoate’s impact but he was solid in his return to the Origin arena. He partnered Josh Dugan on the Blues’ right edge – with one plan – stop Greg Inglis.
The “odd couple” proved successful after they were forced together because of injuries to Josh and Brett Morris in game one. They faced the daunting prospect of marking up against the greatest Origin try-scorers in history in Inglis and Darius Boyd plus Johnathan Thurston with Maroons back-rower Aidan Guerra lurking on that side. Defence was always going to be the worry. Dugan has played just two NRL games at centre while Hopoate hasn’t played wing since Manly’s 2011 grand final win, and he is just 12 NRL games into his return from a two-year Mormon mission.
Queensland showed their hand early, using a wide left sweeping play in their first genuine attacking opportunity with Boyd going close to scoring but the Blues were given a confidence builder when the duo were able to repel them.
The heroics of the Morris brothers in game one will now be entrenched in Origin folklore and the pair – who re-joined Blues camp on Monday – presented each game two player with their jerseys.
When Dugan missed a one-on-one tackle on Inglis in the 10th minute, allowing him to bust through the line, the Blues looked shaky but that is where the defensive troubles ended for the right side.
The pair were chosen for their attacking abilities but they too had limited chances in their returns to the Origin arena. There were few sweeping back-line moves and they passed to each other only once, when Dugan’s inexperience at playing one in from the sideline counted against him.
Drifting across field he passed to Hopoate – who was forced to stand almost on top of the sideline before easily being bundled into touch.
Hopoate had an early carry in the match, taking a hit-up after five minutes while Dugan had to wait until the 18th minute for his first dummy-half run. Their chances were even more limited in the second half. The Maroons would have been unhappy with Dugan being forced to make just 19 tackles.
With Josh Morris pushing for a return in game three, either Dugan or Hopoate would be unlucky not to raise the shield at Suncorp Stadium.