A superb 110-metre movement involving Albert Hopoate and Bradman Best in the final 90 seconds of play has seen the NSW Under-16s side secure a memorable 22-16 victory against the Queensland Under-16s at Suncorp Stadium.
With the scores locked at 16, the Maroons attempted a field goal, before Hopoate swooped on the loose ball in the in-goal area, evaded a number of Queensland defenders and freed Best to sprint down the touchline to secure the win in emphatic and impressive style.
The Queenslanders had just minutes earlier tied the game at 16, a slick sleight of hands from their halves eventually finding the arms of centre Ezra Coulston and winger Alo’fiana Khan-Pereira. Coulston’s touchline conversion attempt look good but fell just short of the crossbar.
After a period of Queensland dominance early in the second half – one of many throughout the match – the Blues wrestled their way back into the match, with a smart face ball at the line ending in a try to Illawarra interchange forward Blake Dowel. Aaron Schoupp’s conversion cut the Maroons’ early lead to two.
Then one of the tries of the year with just 10 minutes remaining to hand the Blues the lead. Hot-potato play, out-the-back flicks and some superb offloads, going through no less than seven sets of hands, saw Schoupp cross in the corner. A touchline conversion took the Blues lead – their first in the game – to four.
The Queenslanders opened the match in the best possible fashion, scoring in just the sixth minute through centre Will Evans from a short ball close to the line after a dominant opening period. Coulston’s near-touch conversion took the young Maroons’ lead to six.
The Maroons continued to dominate field position, camping inside the Blues’ territory on the back of three consecutive repeat sets. That defensive workload took its toll on Brad Fittler’s young men, but they absorbed the onslaught, eventually marching into Queensland territory – and into attacking field position – in the 20th minute.
A smart inside ball saw the Blues march downfield and, on the back of a penalty, a right-to-left shift ended in the arms of Newcastle’s Cooper Jenkins, who crashed over to cut the deficit to two.
But the Queenslanders crossed a few minutes later with a backline move of their own, Khan-Pereira scooting along the touchline to catch the Blues napping. Coulston’s second sharp conversion took Queensland’s lead to eight.
NSW 22 (Cooper Jenkins, Blake Dowel, Aaron Schoupp, Bradman Best tries; Schoupp 3 goals) def. Queensland 16 (Alo’fiana Khan-Pereira 2, Will Evans tries; Ezraa Coulston 2 goals)