Day 2: Central Women too strong for Marlins

In 2014, the North Queensland Marlins and the Central Queensland Crows provided one of the matches of the state carnival with the North Queensland team replete with international stars coming from behind and taking the points.  The 2015 rematch again shaped as the match of the carnival.

While the 2014 Marlins featured an impressive line-up of rep players, in 2015 it was the Crows turn to bring out their big guns. Since the 2014 State Carnival, several Crows players have turned out for Queensland and Annette Brander has also debuted for the Jillaroos.

With the two teams more evenly matched, Crows coach Steve Savage pointed to a better team build up to the carnival this year with the girls having the opportunity to train together (an opportunity that was lacking the previous year).

It was the Central Queensland team that put early points on the board through a raid down the left-hand touch line with a number of passes putting centre Kody House over the line.

Despite a strong breeze that would cause headaches for kickers throughout the match, Crows fullback Lana Sheedy skilfully added the extra points from the sideline.

It was the swirling breeze that led to the next try. With the Marlins attacking 20m out from the try line the high ball on the fifth tackle was probably not the best option.  The wind cruelly bent the ball back and Crows winger Chelsea Baker caught the Marlins backline by surprise swooping in to collect the ball on the bounce and sprint 70m for a try at the opposite end of the field. With the wind at her back, Sheedy once more added the extras from the sideline enabling the Crows to go into the half time break ahead 12-0.

It was only three minutes into the second half that the Crows looked to have put the match beyond doubt with a second try to Baker who chimed into a set play off the back of a scrum and beat three players to score untouched under the posts. With the conversion in front a formality, the Crows were up 18-0 with 27 minutes to go.

The Marlins did dig deep and in the following set marched down the field and the determined Jillaroos half Jenni-Sue Hoepper crashed over the line bringing a crowd of defenders with her.

While this was the only bright spot on the scoreboard for the Marlins, the final score did not reflect the potency of the Marlins attack with many opportunities going begging. On several occasions, the Marlins made the line break, but failed to deliver the offload safely to support players.

Coach Nathan Doyle admitted that the 2015 Marlins team was a predominantly young team which will look to improve as a side over the coming years as the players gelled and the competition opportunities increase in the state’s north.

CENTRAL CROWS 18 (Chelsea Baker 2, Kody House tries; Lana Sheedy 3 goals) def NORTHERN MARLINS 4 (Jenni-Sue Hoepper try) at Owen Park, Southport (Halftime: Central Crows 12-0)

Day 3: South East Queensland show grit in comeback win

With the North Queensland Marlins backing up from a disappointing display against Central Queensland the previous day, there were few expecting the cobbled together North Queensland outfit to trouble the South East Queensland juggernaut. But coach Nathan Doyle's charges had a surprise in store for the SEQ team and the crowd.

It took all of two minutes and the Marlin's first set was rewarded with a try to Stephanie Mooka who barnstormed her way over the line from 20m out. While it may have been telling how quickly the Marlins were able to capitalise on their first possession, the try coincided with a devastating loss to the SEQ team with their Queensland and Jillaroos half Ali Brigginshaw stretchered off the field and transported to hospital with a leg injury.
 
Their early 6-0 lead gave the North Queensland visitors a huge confidence boost with which they continually starved their more fancied opponents of quality ball. The left edge of the ruck continued to provide a happy hunting ground for the Marlins as 17-year-old fullback Lahtiffa Benjamin chimed in to a backline move to give the Marlins an overlap and more points through centre Tonia Bradford in the 11th minute.
 
The Marlins continued to wreak havoc on the edges with quick-footed half Asta Naden able to turn the defence inside out almost at will. A promising line break by Naden on the right hand side was followed by a sweeping backline move that ultimately saw the ball into the safe hands of fullback Benjamin who scored near the left corner post. The North Queensland side would take the unlikely 14-0 lead into the halftime break, and the SEQ side were clearly stunned.
 
The SEQ team may not have had Jillaroos stars Steph Hancock in the squad and had lost both Brigginshaw and Tarah Westera through injuries, but the team which had put the sword to the Central Queensland team only two days earlier had plenty of experience and attacking potency. And so the SEQ fight back began.
 
As the first half belonged to the Marlins who were able to put pressure and force uncharacteristic errors, the second half would see the tables turned.

It featured more expansive play from the SEQ team with offloads finding their mark and the forwards making the meters that were lacking in the first. It took all of three minutes into the second half for backrower Amie Solomona to muscle over the try line and sneak the ball down through desperate defenders. This try would be characteristic of the SEQ second half effort.

 The next try in the 46th minute was eerily similar, as forward Ngamoko Hiku smashing her way towards the line and twisting out of Renae Kunst's tackle to put the ball on the line next to the goal post. A further SEQ try to Florence Faamita in the 53rd minute saw them take the lead 16-14 for the first time in the game.

The tide had well and truly turned and there seemed little the Marlins could do to stem it as fatigue started to set in and errors followed. A knock on call against Marlins winger Shania Power in the 57th minute gifted SEQ a set 15m out from the Marlin's tryline.  SEQ could not be stopped from there and a try out wide to winger Jessica Gracie sealed the match 20-14.

SOUTH EAST QUEENSLAND 20 (Jessica Gracie, Amie Solomona, Florence Faamita, Ngamoko Hiku tries; Zahara Temara 2 goals) def NORTHERN MARLINS 14 (Lahtiffa Benjamin, Tonia Bradford, Stephanie Mooka tries; Jenni-Sue Hoepper goal) at Owen Park, Southport

Full results from the carnival can be found here: A Grade / Women’s Carnival results