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Origin Flashback: D-Saf gets over in record Blues rout

Not many people knew exactly what to expect when New South Wales took on the Maroons in Game I of 2021.

Especially considering what happened just six months earlier.

Rewinding to the 2020 series, the 'worst Origin team of all time' humbled the star studded Blues by securing a shock 2-1 series win in the Game III decider at Suncorp Stadium.

While many of the Blues walked away from that series doing plenty of soul searching, Daniel Saifiti was not one of them.

In fact, the Knights enforcer was a shining light in a disappointing series for the New South Welshmen, consistently dominating the middle of the park and collecting the Blues' player's player award.

12 months earlier, in early 2019, Saifiti wasn't even thought to be in the Origin conversation.

His selection in Game II turned plenty of heads and only came off the back of a late form surge at Club level, along with an injury to incumbent David Klemmer.

He is now one of the first players picked by Brad Fittler and is considered one of the most elite forwards in the game.

But it was the burning desire and bitter taste left from 2020's disappointment that spurred Saifiti on to perhaps the greatest performance of his career thus far.

By the numbers, despite the superstars littering their line up, New South Wales went into Game I of 2021 really up against it.

Queensland were brimming with confidence after their shock 2020 win and had the likes of Cameron Munster, Harry Grant and Daly Cherry-Evans in incredible form.

Not to mention the location of the game was switched just days away from kick off from the neutral ground of Melbourne to Townsville, deep in North Queensland.

Almost 30,000 fans painted the stadium in a deep coat of Maroon for the game, creating one of the most hostile environments ever faced by a travelling Blues outfit.

Not that it mattered to Saifiti.

They say no matter how talented or star-studded the backline, it could all amount to nothing if the platform isn't laid up front.

Saifiti ran for 142 metres, the most of any Blues forward. He also made 21 tackles with just one miss.

His hard work up front paved the way for the likes of Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell, James Tedesco and Nathan Cleary to run absolutely riot.

The Maroons barely even got a look in as the Blues quickly racked up a cricket score, silencing the thousands of Queenslanders in attendance.

With the scores at 38-6 in 64th minute, it would've been easy to put the cue in the rack.

But not for Saifiti.

Attacking the Maroons line, Damien Cook skipped out of dummy half and managed to isolate AJ Brimson.

With Saifiti storming onto a short ball, there was only going to be one winner.

The big man crashed over the line, slamming the ball down and celebrating his maiden Origin try while being mobbed by his team mates.

Watch: D-Saf's first Origin try

A fitting reward for one of his best ever performances.

The Blues went on to win the game 50-6, a record for NSW at Origin level.

After the disappointment of 2020, the Blues responded by winning the series with the biggest aggregate winning margin of all time, with NSW outscoring QLD by 68 points over three games.

And without Saifiti, you could easily make the argument this wouldn't be the case.