Blues game-breaker Nathan Cleary has warned teammates the job is only half done after the halfback's "masterclass" helped NSW level the State of Origin series in emphatic fashion.
Relieved of the pressure of being solely responsible for NSW's kicking game, Cleary delivered the most dominant performance of his Origin career in Sunday night's 44-12 rout in Perth.
Hustled into a sub-par performance in Origin I in Sydney, Cleary returned to his methodical best at Optus Stadium, scoring the first two tries of his 12-game NSW career and kicking eight goals from eight attempts.
Blues great Andrew Johns described the display as a "masterclass", while six-time series-winning NSW coach Phil Gould claimed it was "one of the truly great halfback performances in Origin history".
Cleary agreed it was at least his best at Origin level, with his two tries a bonus.
"I guess you don't want to fall in love with your individual performance too much because we've got a job to do," he told AAP.
"It was more pleasing to get the win. It was a slog there at times.
"That was a lot more enjoyable than the first game."
Cleary also escaped sanction for a high shot on Maroons fullback Kalyn Ponga, clearing him to play for Penrith this Friday against the Sydney Roosters.
The halfback's performance was aided by the fact Matt Burton was jettisoned into NSW's left centre spot to take the pressure off Cleary's kicking game.
The introduction of Burton and his towering bombs meant Queensland were split on who to close down, allowing Cleary space and time.
"Having Burto and Romie (Jarome Luai) kicking gave us a couple of options," Cleary said.
"Our forwards laid a really good platform and we were on the front foot a lot.
"One of Burto's kicks was ridiculous. I was chasing it and it was flying all over the place, he's outstanding. I thought he had a great debut."
The victory means NSW will head to Suncorp Stadium aiming to win a decider in Queensland - something they have only done in 1994 and 2005.
Cleary has only played in one decider - in 2020 when the Blues lost - and the 24-year-old will be the man tasked with spearheading NSW's bid to retain the shield.
"It's going to be tough," he said. "We know that Queensland are going to be much better and Suncorp is probably the toughest place to go and get a win.
"As much as we have to enjoy tonight, we can't fall in love with ourselves.
"We have to be better. If we don't win game three, then tonight's game means nothing."
Australian Associated Press
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