A 72nd-minute Zac Lomax field goal and a late Sebastian Kris try has proved the difference in a thrilling under-18s Origin match, NSW under-18s winning 35-28 against Queensland.
After claiming a 26-0 victory in the corresponding clash against Queensland last year, Brad Fittler’s under-18s were determined to continue their winning ways – and they did on the back of some inspirational play from their captain Payne Haas and a hat-trick to halfback Luke Metcalf… in addition to a couple of clutch plays.
With the scores tied 28-all late in the match, Lomax stepped up to kick the decisive field goal, before a final-minute try off a beautiful ball from Haas and a sideline conversion from Lomax sealed the result.
NSW got off to an ideal start in the match, scoring after seven minutes through Metcalf. On the back of a left-to-right shift, the ball found the Cronulla Sharks half, who breezed and bobbed his way past the Queensland defence to go over the line on his hands and knees.
NSW winger Kris extended the young Blues’ lead just six minutes later, the recipient of a beautiful cut-out ball from five-eighth Jaeman Salmon. Lomax’s touchline conversion stretched the NSW lead to 10.
Queensland, however, soon ate into the Blues’ the lead, with a left-side break resulting in a try to Treymain Spry. The Maroons’ conversion took the score to 10-6.
A determined run from Queensland centre Ronaldo Mulitalo just a couple of minutes tied things up, with the kick between the posts giving the game a new leader – and a huge shift in momentum.
Just before half-time the Maroons’ other centre Murray Tauilagi crossed, benefiting from a short-side raid close to the Blues’ line to take the half-time score to 16-10.
NSW had the best possible start to the second half, with Metcalf collecting the ball off a last-play option from Queensland inside his own half to streak downfield to score an uncontested try to tie the game at 16-all.
Soon after it was Metcalf again – crossing for his third of the evening – following a right-edge break to give the Blues a 22-16 lead.
NSW extended their lead soon after, through a slick movement that ended in the hands Ethan Parry – after a sublime pass from Zac Lomax. The conversion took the score to 28-16, and it looked like the match was sealed.
Queensland, however, weren’t going to roll over, and a jinking run from five-eighth Cory Paix carved through the Blues, to put front-rower Logan Bayliss-Brow over unopposed.
Fellow front-rower Eddie Blacker scored eight minutes later to tie the game at 28.
Fittler’s men, however, weren’t worried.
Lomax, Haas, man-of-the-match Metcalf and co got the job done.
Congratulations to the NSW Under-18s – 2017 champions!