A high-intensity match in high temperatures has ended in a come-from-behind victory to the NSW Koori Indigenous Under-16 side, defeating their Queensland counterparts 16 points to 14.
Despite the mercury not dipping below 30 degrees until late in the second half, it was a back-and-forth encounter to begin proceedings at Newcastle No.2 Sportsground. Eventually the deadlock was broken; a half-break by Queensland’s Alofiaua Khan ended in a dangerous tackle from the NSW defence, with Queensland earning momentum and scoring from the resulting penalty. A shift from left to right then brought the first points of the game, with Watjerra Briggs crossing for the Murri side. Unconverted by Bailey Biondi-Odo, it was 4-0 to the visitors.
Just four minutes later, another mistake by NSW brought about points for their opponents; this time a spilt ball in-goal gifting Queensland a simple four-pointer. The kick was waved away again for an 8-0 lead.
Soon after resumption of play in the second quarter, the Murri were in again thanks to a slick break through the middle for Biondi-Odo. Fullback Rayden Burns took advantage of the scrambling defence to score under the posts, converted to extend their lead to 14.
The lead was getting out of hand and the home side needed to hit back quickly, which they did in the ensuing passage of play. With a Queensland fumble off the restart, NSW mounted pressure and came up with points via the left centre Triston Eldridge. That brought the game back to 14-4 – a scoreline which would remain until half-time.
Early in the second half, the Koori boys again enjoyed early possession – and, once again, proved that their opponents couldn’t withstand the pressure. Skipper and hooker Kobe Rugless scored in the middle, converted by Joseph Gordon to reduce the deficit to four.
That would be the only scoring for the quarter as proceedings began to even out, but NSW would be hurt by the departure of fullback Malachi Roberts. In the final stanza, however, the home side managed to lock things up via; Izziah Aldridge crossed for the home side, with Gordon adding the extras from out wide to give them a 16-14 advantage with nine minutes remaining.
The Murri weren’t done with yet, earning repeat sets and almost scoring via an impressive run from Burns, but the NSW defence narrowly held out to record an emotional victory. In the eighth instalment of the fixture, which had previously been held in Queensland, the NSW Koori Under-16 side earned their second victory in front of a vocal Newcastle crowd.