The Queensland Under 18 side have suffered a heartbreaking loss against their NSW counterparts - going down 35-28 in a hard-fought match at ANZ Stadium.
Queensland had spoken about the importance of a good start to the match – but they were unable to follow through – giving up two early penalties to put themselves on the back foot to start the match.
NSW capitalised early, with talented halfback Luke Metcalf producing a show and go before pushing his way through over the line after defenders fell off him.
They were in again soon after applying pressure on the Queensland side when they firstly earned a line drop-out and then a penalty.
A perfect long pass from five-eighth Jaeman Salmon to his winger Sebastian Kris out on the sideline saw him go over; while Zachary Lomax’s conversion saw the home side up 10-0 with only 15 minutes gone.
However, Queensland kept their heads up and hit back after with Western Mustangs fullback Travis Turnbull producing a great break down field before finding Treymain Spry to his left who touched down to score.
That gave the visitors a lift and scores were tied up 10-10 when Ronaldo Mulitalo showed sheer strength and determination to find his way over the line.
Turnbull made no mistake with the conversion and Queensland had the lead 12-10.
They went further in front when a short-side play from Cory Paix to his centre Murray Taulagi result in the NQ product getting the ball down.
The conversion went across the face of the uprights and the lead remained at 16-10 to Queensland.
Spry thought he had a double when he went flying over in the corner – but he was deemed to have gone into touch.
A good start again evaded Queensland in the second half – with NSW crossing twice in the space of five minutes to reclaim the lead.
Metcalf got his second when he collected a kick and ran almost the length of the field; and then quickly earned his hat-trick when winger Ethan Parry swapped traditional roles to feed a great pass back inside for his halfback.
Parry soon got a try of his own when a Lomax pass found him out on the right ring.
Trailing 28-16; Queensland put in the effort to work their way back into the game.
Finally, they were rewarded for their effort when Paix put on a step close to the line and busted through; and found Logan Bayliss in support who put the down under the sticks to start the fightback.
His fellow prop Eddie Blacker was the next to get his name on the scoresheet when he caught a flat pass close to the line and wrestled his way over the line.
Turnbull’s successful conversion had the scores locked up at 28-28 with fulltime approaching.
The tension was high, but NSW were able to break the deadlock when they worked their way into Queensland territory and Lomax potted a field goal.
In the final minute of the game, NSW were able to put the result to bed when Parry crossed for his double.
While it was a tough loss to take for the Queenslanders, it was a great performance for the most part – with a number of the players still eligible to play in this age division next season.
There were also some standout performances across the board, including from forward Tino Fa'asuamaleaui who brought great impact from the bench, while Turnbull and Paix also showed their skills.
NSW U18's: 35 (Luke Metcalf 3, Sebastian Kris 2, Ethan Parry tries; Zachary Lomax 5 goals, Zachary Lomax field goal) def Queensland U18's: 28 (Treymain Spry, Ronaldo Mulitalo, Murray Taulagi, Logan Bayliss, Eddie Blacker tries; Travis Turnbull 4 goals)
Halftime: 16-10 Queensland
Man of the Match: Luke Metcalf (NSW)