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Queensland fans were left seething over the state of the refereeing in Game II of the State of Origin series on Sunday night after NSW levelled the ledger at 1-1 with a thumping win in Perth.
A Nathan Cleary masterclass led the Blues to a 44-12 win, with the star halfback setting up two tries, scoring two of his own, nailing a perfect eight from eight goals and causing Queensland constant grief.
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The dominant victory followed Queensland's 16-10 win in the series opener in Sydney, with NSW now chasing a win in Brisbane to seal the series from 1-0 for just the fourth time.
However the major talking point out of the match was the state of the refereeing, with Ashley Klein coming under heavy fire over his decision to sin-bin Felise Kaufusi late in the first half.
Klein's performance in Game I had been criticised by NSW coach Brad Fittler, who accused the referee of allowing Queensland to stray offside and slow down the ruck.
But Klein showed he was willing to send infringing players to the sin-bin when Kaufusi was dismissed for a 10-minute spell late in the first stanza.
The decision to march Kaufusi came off the back of a number of back-to-back infringements with NSW attacking Queensland's line, with Klein finally seeing enough to employ the sin-bin.
The Blues then scored just before half-time for a 14-12 lead at the break and never looked back.
Speaking during half-time, State of Origin icons Phil Gould and Paul Vautin were fuming.
“I hate sin-bins at the best of times let alone in an Origin,” Gould said.
“I don’t think there was ever a warning here. He just got four or five in the space of a minute and then just had enough and sent him off. They will justify that.
“But I don’t think he should have got to that point. All of those six agains he gave to get them into sin bin territory, you need a magnifying glass to work out exactly what had gone wrong or why it needed to be penalised.
“The fact that they are six agains and not penalty kicks means they are giving them away like smarties. You don’t need it. It is Origin football.”
Vautin added: “It is a gee up.
“No-one knows what they’re for. No-one here knows. No-one at home knows. We don’t know. We’re so called experts. So called.”
Veteran journalist Phil Rothfield tweeted: "Seriously Klein is ruining this game", while others labelled it a "disgrace".
Seriously Klein is ruining this game
— BUZZ ROTHFIELD (@BuzzRothfield) June 26, 2022
— Sam Phillips (@samphillips06) June 26, 2022
De-Kleined. Queensland getting stitched up by referee here.
— Todd Balym (@balymt) June 26, 2022
I don’t want to hear any NSW fan complain about refereeing in this game. What a joke this has been #origin
— Sammy (@OzSportsGuy) June 26, 2022
What a joke the last few 6 again calls, same examples all game then they go on a blitz and a sin bin. Farcical refereeing #Origin
— AMPS (@amps1) June 26, 2022
Regardless of the result the change that needs to be made is Klein dropped from the origin ref team, he refs as if he wants to be the most visible person on the field, constantly making bad calls, and lacking any sort of consistency #Origin
— thelordoftheyeet (@thelordoftheye1) June 26, 2022
Billy Slater refuses to blame refereeing decisions
To his credit, Queensland coach Billy Slater refused to blame the refereeing for his side's performance.
"Fatigue plays a part in the game and when you're down to 12 men, you are a lot more fatigued," Slater said.
"I'll have to go back and look at the penalties individually but that's the referees' job. We won't use that as an excuse."
Captain Daly Cherry-Evans said the Maroons were surprised.
"I felt the decision was made quickly considering the amount of infringements we had," the skipper said.
"You don't know when you are going to get those decisions against you.
"Every time you get someone sent for 10 it does come as a bit of a shock."
While the Maroons only conceded on try while reduced to 12 men, the Blues' period of numerical advantage began to tell late in the game, with NSW scoring 30 unanswered second-half points to win 44-12 and square the series.
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