Nathan Cleary cops backlash over worrying Daly Cherry-Evans truth

The Blues halfback was in the same position last year after Game I.

Nathan Cleary looks on during State of Origin and Daly Cherry-Evans celebrates.
Nathan Cleary (pictured left) has come under fire again after his head-to-head stats against Maroons No.7 Daly Cherry-Evans have been raised after Game I. (Getty Images)

Nathan Cleary may be rightfully, or wrongly, the most maligned man in rugby league when it comes to the State of Origin arena but the halfback's numbers against Daly Cherry-Evans are starting to make scary reading for Blues fans. The men in Blue were left bewildered and without answers on Wednesday night in Adelaide after they were unable to turn possession and field territory into points to put away the Maroons.

Queensland held on tight in the first half as they continually defended their line, which saw Daly Cherry-Evans produce a number of good kicks and plays to relieve pressure. The No.7 then produced a game-changing 40/20 in the second half to spark the Maroons into life.

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Similarly, Cameron Munster set-up a try and scored one himself as the Maroons five-eighth continues to show why he is the best half in Origin. While there is little doubt that Cleary can be considered the best halfback in the NRL competition for the Panthers, he has still struggled to replicate this dominant form for the Blues. And on Wednesday, Cleary struggled to ignite a disjointed Blues attack.

A number of his kicks weren't on point when attacking the line and he potentially opted for the wrong direction once or twice. Whilst plenty of the criticism levelled at Cleary is wildly unfair, the halfback will find it hard to escape the criticism after Game I in 2023.

It was this time last year when Cleary was facing the same situation after a performance that drew criticism. And the halfback showed class to admit just that. "My performance can lift others around me, and I wasn’t good enough," he said after Game I in 2022.

“I didn’t play well enough and that affects the result. It is on me to get better and if I am better the rest of the team is too. You have never fully got the game worked out. You think you are going alright and then a game like this happens. Sometimes it is not a bad thing."

Nathan Cleary looks dejected after losing State of Origin Game I.
Nathan Cleary (pictured) arguably is still yet to make his name in the State of Origin arena. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

While Cleary is still only 25 and could become a future great, Blues fans have pointed out that the state are in the same situation and face back-to-back series losses. On Thursday morning, on SEN Radio, The Daily Telegraph reporter Michael Carayannis pointed out that Cleary's numbers against Cherry-Evans - who he usurped as the Kangaroos' No.7 last year - don't read well.

"On Nathan Cleary's Origin record, he is an elite player in the NRL, but his performances in Origin, on a whole for mine, have been underwhelming. He hasn't grabbed a series and if you match his head-to-head record against DCE, Daly Cherry-Evans has played him off his brakes in Origin," Carayannis said to NRL commentator Andrew Voss.

"But you can't discard his NRL form and he'll be there...but for mine, it was the showing of the big name players. The guys that you need to guide the side around. But the criticism, for me, should be levelled around the No.1 and No.7." However, the New South Wales public are not as patient as Carayannis.

Cleary has seven wins for the Blues and seven losses and is facing a third series defeat in four against his rival halfback Cherry-Evans. And to stop this feat the Blues will have to win at Suncorp in three weeks. While Blues legend Andrew Johns labelled Cleary the best player in the world before Origin, many fans have had enough of the performances.

Andrew Johns blasts New South Wales attack

While Cleary was underwhelming, he certainly wasn't the only player for the Blues. Captain James Tedesco has come under fire for a nightmare performance in Game I.

Tedesco has been a brilliant Blues captain, but lacked the cutting edge in Adelaide last night. Two telling moments saw Selwyn Cobbo shrug Tedesco off with ease after a lacklustre tackle to stop a try.

And the defining moment was when Tabuai-Fidow left Tedesco eating dirt to all but seal the game for the Maroons. And Johns was critical of the Blues' attack in his post-match analysis.

While not singling out any individual players, Johns' criticism falls on the leaders of the team.

"The attack was terrible. They had so much momentum and they had so much possession," Johns said on Channel Nine. "With all that field position, momentum and possession you have to score...but you just have to be better. New South Wales were really poor. Really poor."

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