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Napa 'comes of age' on game's biggest stage

Martin Gabor, National Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌ 

Maroons skipper Cameron Smith has lauded front-rower Dylan Napa for his outstanding contribution in Game Two as Queensland levelled the State of Origin series with an 18-16 win at ANZ Stadium. 

In just his second Origin appearance, Napa took it upon himself to rattle the Blues with a couple of telling shots on clubmates Mitchell Pearce and Boyd Cordner setting the tone early.

The 24-year-old firebrand finished the game with 119 metres and 30 tackles and emerged as the new leader of the pack with the representative futures of veterans Matt Scott (knee), Nate Myles (elbow) and Sam Thaiday (dropped) up in the air.  

"He was outstanding," Smith said after the game. 

"It was a pretty good performance for his second game. His first one, I thought he was pretty good in his debut match, and to come down here… his second stint was just tremendous for us and we needed that. 

"We needed someone out there to get us going forward to get guys like JT (Johnathan Thurston), Coops (Cooper Cronk) and Billy [Slater] some momentum to do the things that they did. 

"He achieved that against an outstanding forward pack of the opposition. If he continues those performances then he'll wear a Maroon jersey for a long time."

‌Queensland coach Kevin Walters didn't mince his words when asked about Napa's performance.  

"I really thought he came of age in that second stint," Walters said. 

"He's a young forward that we've thrown in there to try to stand up to the NSW pack and it was a pretty dominant display from him in the second period. He'll get a lot of confidence out of that heading into Game Three. 

"It's not easy [because] he's only a young fella, and as Cameron knows, through that middle, you can't hide. He really put his hand up and said 'give me the ball and I'll do something for you'."

After being dominated through the middle in Game One, Queensland's revamped forward pack got the job done with their debutants leaving an impression on Walters. 

The likes of Jarrod Wallace, Coen Hess and Tim Glasby all played their part; a job made easier by the fact they were playing alongside some of the game's all-time greats.  

"I was really excited for them because they got an opportunity to play with Cameron, Billy, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston in his last Origin series," Walters said.

"For me, if I was a young player coming through and I got the opportunity to do that, I think I'd be busting my arse to make sure I did everything I could to make sure these boys get the opportunity to showcase their skills."

This article first appeared on NRL.COM

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