The rugby league has never been more divided over rules, repressions, and expansion talks, but the Women’s Home State reminded us why it is the greatest sport on Earth as the Queensland hit late to beat New South Wales 8-6 in a Sunshine Coast crack competition.
Chelsea Lenarduzzi went from zero to heroine in a matter of minutes as she conceded a penalty to allow the Sky Blues to level things at 6 before redeeming themselves with two massive plays to the death.
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The Queensland mainstay completed a one-on-one steal to snatch the ball away from Filomina Hanisi, then earned her team a penalty with less than two minutes remaining when Hanisi pulled her leg as she attempted to play the ball.
It was the right move, but it was a cruel blow for NSW who had been the better side for long periods of play as they sought to reclaim the shield after last year’s heartbreak.
They may have started the night as underdogs, but New South Wales is unafraid in wet and wild conditions as they shocked their more fanciful rivals with an expansive ball swing from early on. the first set in front of 7183 fans.
The visitors defied a gale to dominate the footage in the first half, running 595 yards against Queensland’s 459 led by Botille Vette-Welsh and Millie Boyle, who was just about the best player on the pitch.
MATCH CENTER: Maroons v Blues – stats, scores, video, team rosters
But the Sky Blues couldn’t maintain their offensive precision, ending the night with 14 errors and a stack of penalties as indiscipline cost them what would have been a famous victory.
The Maroons weren’t too clinical with the ball in hand, with last year’s stars Tamika Upton and Tarryn Aiken struggling in slippery conditions, but their class shone in the later stages to claim back-to-back wins on the Most big stage.
Queensland captain Ali Brigginshaw said in his pre-game interview that Destiny Brill “is the whore of the future”, and as usual, the Maroons star was on the money.
Brill and Brigginshaw played together for the Diehards in the BHP Premiership Grand Final, and they were two of Queensland’s best, with the former scoring early on with a dart from the half-model.
The girl came closer earlier to be held back by three NSW defenders, but she wasn’t going to be denied a second time as the Maroons punished a patch of bad discipline from their southern rivals.
She looks like a star from the future and is definitely one to watch in the NRLW this season.
It caused a stir last year when Amber Hall was charged with an ugly lock of hair that injured Isabelle Kelly, and the disturbing trend continued on Friday with reruns showing Brigginshaw pulling Kennedy Cherrington’s hair.
The first half incident is likely to be the subject of close scrutiny and highlights a worrying tactic that needs to be taken out of the game.
One of the biggest regrets about last year’s loss was the fact that NSW didn’t give their star enough ball. It was never going to be a problem this time around, even if the conditions suggested otherwise.
Jess Sergis had a solid game even though she bombed what would have been one of Origin’s great tries, but center partner Isabelle Kelly had no problem as she stole the show on the left.
Kelly almost scored with her first touch, but wouldn’t be turned down on her next postponement when she battled against several potential defenders to grab the opening try after four minutes.
She finished with 142 yards and nine tackle busts.
NEW SOUTH WALES
1. Botille Vette-Welsh 2. Yasmin Meakes 3. Jessica Sergis 4. Isabelle Kelly 5. Tiana Penitani 6. Corban Baxter 7. Maddie Studdon 8. Simaima Taufa 9. Keeley Davis 10. Millie Boyle 11. Kezie Apps 12. Sarah Togatuki 13. Hannah Southwell 14. Quincy Dodd 15. Filomina Hanisi 16. Kennedy Cherrington 17. Holli Wheeler 18. Brydie Parker 19. Renee Targett
1. Tamika Upton 2. Shenae Ciesiolka 3. Lauren Brown 4. Julia Robinson 5. Karina Brown 6. Tarryn Aiken 7. Zahara Temara 8. Chelsea Lenarduzzi 9. Destiny Brill 10. Shannon Mato 11. Tazmin Gray 12. Tiana Raftstrand-Smith 13. Ali Brigginshaw 14. Romy Teitzel 15. Natassja Purontakanen 16. Shaniah Power 17. Brianna Clark 18. Talisha Harden 19. Rona Peters
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