Passion on show in Latino Origin
Three tries in the final 14 minutes saw NSW storm home to a 32-8 win against Queensland in a feisty inaugural Latino Origin event at Davies Park in Brisbane.
In a match where two players were sin-binned and referee Juan Perez defused a handful of potentially explosive moments, fans and players from both sides showed how seriously they were taking the contest.
Home side Queensland started the match with a series of bone-rattling hits and seemed to have the upper hand around the ruck early, with Sebastian Martinez, Carlos Reyes Kiwi Kiwi and Jaxson Uzabeaga putting their shoulders to use.
However an inch-perfect kick from Cucarachas fullback James Horvat to flying winger Javier Britos in the 11thminute saw the visitors dot down first and turn the tide in their favour.
Queensland went close to replying on several occasions, most notably with Oscar Mendoza pulled up short of the line twice.
Yet the southerners jumped out to a 12-0 advantage as hard-running lock Mana Castillo-Sioni latched on to an inside ball from half Alvaro Alarcon and burrowed through a mountain of defenders 24 minutes in.
The Sapos finally found their way on to the scoreline as hooker Martinez, a standout throughout the game, jinked his way past defenders and used brute strength to dive over three minutes prior to halftime.
At 12-4 and the run of play very much even, a small but vocal crowd remained heavily invested in the contest as the second half began.
After injuring his shoulder in the first half, Queensland fullback Angel Morrison played on and became embroiled in a running feud with opposite number Horvat, baiting each other regularly.
Lock Uzabeaga and NSW interchange forward Eugene Araya had a similar ongoing tussle, and it was no surprise when all four players were involved in a skirmish not long into the second stanza.
Almost 20 minutes of the second half went tit-for-tat before NSW added to the score, with Horvat jumping out of dummy-half and slicing behind the ruck to beat three defenders on the way to the tryline.
Converting his own try from out wide, the Chilean linchpin assisted the score to 18-4.
Then came a period of further intensity where Queensland winger Diego Verejano and Cucarachas powerhouse Castillo-Sioni were both pointed to the sin-bin for infringements around the ruck.
As they spent 10 minutes cooling their heels, Daniel Godinez – the Latin American Rugby League president who only came in as a late inclusion for injured prop Eduardo Wegener – stormed 25m for the try which put the result beyond doubt.
Although Queensland found a right of reply by a determined try to Morrison, at 22-8 with 10 minutes to play, time was not on their side.
Indeed, NSW iced the victory with a further two tries in the dying moments, with an emotional Araya pinballing across from close range, and teenager Frank Altamirano showing plenty of zip to score on fulltime.
After setting the tempo in attack and defence, Cucarachas hooker Niko Cama received the Jye Sommers Medal for the player of the match.
Despite tensions throughout the game, both teams embraced at fulltime and celebrated together as the notched another milestone in bringing the sport of rugby league to the Latin American community.
NSW CUCARACHAS 32 (Javier Britos, Mana Castillo-Sioni, James Horvat, Daniel Godinez, Eugene Araya, Frank Altamirano tries; James Horvat 4 goals) def QLD SAPOS 8 (Sebastian Martinez, Angel Morrison tries) at Davies Park, West End, Brisbane. Referee: Juan Perez. Touch Judges: Will Shannon, Josh Aitken.