The Queensland Under 16 side have gone down 12-10 in a hard-fought match against NSW in tonight’s curtain-raiser to State of Origin Game I.
Co-captain David Fifita was outstanding in a beaten team, as was fullback McKenzie Baker who was a safe pair of hands at the back and helped set up a number of Queensland’s attacking plays.
Both sides were able to cross for two tries apiece – but it was only perfect goal kicking from Jock Madden in the end that sealed the win for the home side.
It was a tight start to the game with defence dominating the early plays.
Neither side was able to cross on a damp surface – but Queensland went close when winger Dejzha Pene made a lunge for the line, but was pushed into touch.
There were some nerves as well for the young teams, but Baker at the back made sure his team started each of their sets well.
It was NSW who were first on the board mid-way through the half when Bronson Xerri put in a clever kick ahead for himself when he was close to the line and he regathered to score.
However, after earning some repeat sets, Jonathan Siofele also came close to crossing for Queensland, but fell short of the line.
The end of the half was a scrappy affair and NSW took a 6-0 lead into halftime.
Fifita got his team off to a positive start in the second half with some strong running, while Baker took some pressure of his halves by taking on a lot of the kicking duties.
It took until there was 20 minutes to go in the game before Queensland got on the board, but they went over in style, with a face ball from Baker landing in the arms of Siofele who went over in the far right.
Five-eighth Cory Paix was unable to land the difficult conversion – but had no troubles soon after with a penalty goal attempt to lock the scores at 6-6.
Fifita again got his side close to scoring with a massive bust through the middle, but his pass back to Pene went down and the ball was turned over to their opposition.
NSW then made them pay, and went over in the far left of the field. Madden’s successful conversion got his side out to what was a match-winning lead.
Queensland though responded well at the kick-off, with NSW dropping the kick to hand the ball back to the visitors.
After being denied earlier, Pene then made no mistake, and was able to cross for his side and thought he had improved the position for his goal kicker.
However, the referee thought differently and Paix was unable to convert another difficult attempt.
Despite a thrilling finish, it was NSW in the end who were able to take back the title.
NSW Under 16s 12 (Bronson Xerri, William Fei tries; Jock Madden goals) def Queensland Under 16s 10 (Jonathan Siofele, Dejzha Pene tries; Cory Paix goal) at ANZ Stadium
Halftime: 6-0 to NSW