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Halves hold Blues' key to Suncorp success

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017 Scott Bailey

NSW players have outperformed their Queensland counterparts nearly all across the park this NRL season, but they face two familiar hurdles ahead of next week's State of Origin series opener.

Their halves' ability close to the line and the imposing Suncorp Stadium crowd.

Statistically this season, the Blues have the better of the Maroons in the forwards and backs.

Despite playing six less games than the Queenslanders this year, the Blues' starting back five have scored an extra six tries and made seven more linebreaks than the Maroons' flyers in the opening 11 rounds.

Up front, it's a similar story.

The Blues' starting pack are averaging an extra 60 metres per match, while they have offered an extra 24 offloads and 13 more tackle busts.

Defensively, both teams miss a similar number of tackles.

Given the Blues' statistically superior bench, NSW are likely to spend plenty of time down Queensland's end.

But the concern is what they do with the ball when they get down there.

Recalled Mitchell Pearce has been the form half of the NRL to outrank the Maroons' Cooper Cronk this season, but he and NSW halves partner James Maloney have only created 12 tries for club teammates this year.

Cronk and five-eighth Anthony Milford have 18.

However, Pearce is hoping the pair's previous combination at the Sydney Roosters, and in the 2013 Origin series, will work in their favour.

"Hopefully the style we're looking to play for NSW is a style that suits me and Jimmy ... There's no doubt that helps in a short week," Pearce said.

Also worrying for the Blues is their woeful record at Suncorp in the past 11 years.

Since 2006, they've only won three times at the venue - and two of those were in dead rubbers.

The Maroons also have a significant advantage in experience, with the likes of Cameron Smith, Darius Boyd and Nate Myles pushing them to an extra 102 Origin caps than the Blues.

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