The Central Crows clinched a hard-fought 22-16 victory over the Northern Marlins to retain bragging rights over their country cousins in the second-annual encounter.
Played at BB Print Stadium in Mackay, both teams gave it their all in the hope of being rewarded with a prestigious Harvey Norman Queensland Country jersey and the chance to play at this year’s Harvey Norman National Women’s Championships.
With eight incumbent Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons in action for their home regions, the quality of football was anticipated to be high, and that’s exactly what played out from the opening whistle.
The eventful first half saw a tough opening ten minutes, where both teams found their rhythm and adjusted to the playing conditions, including the strong 25-kilometre breeze that troubled both sides.
The first points came in the 13th minute when the Crows capitalised on the Marlins’ short right-edge defence, seeing Rhiannon Revell-Blair score in the corner to make it 4-0.
The home side hit back in 21st minute when they chose to run the ball on the last tackle 15 metres out from the line – Steph Mooka breaking the line before throwing a wayward pass inside to Leatitia Perkins who crossed under the posts to take the lead 6-4.
In the following set, the Crows regained the lead when Lana Sheedy fooled the goal-line defence with a number of dummies to score.
In that same passage of play, many of the spectators were bewildered by the stadium emergency alarm sounding, requiring the venue to be evacuated mid-game.
Due to this, the match was suspended until the false alarm was resolved – the stoppage of its nature a first for many of the players.
Once play resumed, Central kept their four-point buffer going into the break, leading 10-6.
Four minutes into the second half, the Crows forced a mistake near the Marlins’ line, allowing for stalwart Steph Hancock to crash over near the posts, giving her side a handy 16-6 lead.
Central’s forward pack struck again with their opposite prop, Deb Barchard crossing four minutes later to ring alarm bells for Northern coach Alby Anderson.
Despite trailing by three tries, they never gave up, forcing the Crows to make mistakes in their own half.
In the 47th minute, the Marlins got a break through with Lauren Moss crossing in the left corner, making it 22-10 with the still plenty of time remaining in the game for the enthusiastic home side.
They needed something special to setup a grandstand finish, and that’s exactly what transpired.
With two minutes left, returning Jillaroo Jenni-Sue Hoepper rolled a nicely-weighted kick in the in-goal area for Angela Solomon to dive on and set up a thrilling final minute.
With plenty of vocal supporters behind them, the Marlins tried to get back up to attack the Crows’ line, but time got the better of them, and Central claimed victory in an enthralling contest that made the continuing growth and development of women’s rugby league the centrefold.
Speaking post-match, Crows coach Michael Jeffs contributed his side’s success to his halves and forwards.
“I thought our ladies played exceptionally well today but the Marlins had a good go,” he said.
“We were ably led by our forwards that kept going forward all day and our halves managed to spread the ball wide, allowing us to have a really solid game which culminated in a good defensive effort as well.”
In the earlier Emerging Women’s match, the Central Crows proved too strong for the Northern Marlins in a close and skilful encounter, 20-16.
A dominant performance from the Northern’s Emma Manzelmann and Central’s Mackenzie Reid earned them both call-ups to the interchange bench of the following game.
At the completion of the match, the Harvey Norman Queensland Country team was announced.
They’ll compete at this year's Harvey Norman National Women's Championships at Burleigh on Thursday, May 30 - Sunday, June 2.
For both the Northern and Central Emerging teams, they’ll travel to the Gold Coast on the same weekend and play in the QRL State Championships at Southport.
CENTRAL CROWS 22 (Rhiannon Revell-Blair, Lana Sheedy, Steph Hancock, Deb Barchard tries; Baker 3 goals) defeated NORTHERN MARLINS 16 (Leatitia Perkins, Lauren Moss, Angela Solomon tries; Angela Solomon 2 goals) at BB Print Stadium, Mackay.