NSW Women Claim Interstate Challenge
A Jessica Sergis-inspired Harvey Norman NSW Women's side has made history at WIN Stadium, with a maiden home win and back-to-back victories in the 2017 Harvey Norman Interstate Challenge.
A big Wollongong crowd witnessed a great display of Women's Rugby League - and Sergis cross for three tries - as NSW ran out 22-6 victors.
While the home side was hurt early in the second half by an injury to experienced fullback Sam Bremner, they gathered themselves nicely to claim momentum soon after, keeping their opposition scoreless for the final 40 minutes. Despite an apparent dominance of the NSW left edge early in proceedings, all five tries came in the opposite corner, with debutant and the side's youngest player Sergis scoring a hat-trick. Halfback Maddie Studdon also played an outstanding game to steer her side to victory, while the forward back was equally dominant.
A bruising hit on Isabelle Kelly ensured a fiery start to the clash and soon after it looked to be Queensland's Heather Ballinger to open the scoring, but the prop forward was held up in some heroic NSW defence.
Kelly responded with a 50-metre break and almost found Nakia Davis-Welsh on her outside, but couldn't quite get her side on the board. The ball was spread right and after a wayward Caitlin Moran kick, Jessica Sergis found the try line to start her debut in style. The attempted conversion was missed by Moran and the home side led 4-0 early.
It soon became clear that the NSW left-edge attack was going to cause all sorts of problems for Queensland, with Kezie Apps making another break before Davis-Welsh followed minutes later. The winger, who looked certain to score, fell just short - but with a significant overlap on the right-hand side, Sergis once again finished the job. Her second came off the back of a Maddie Studdon kick and with Moran's conversion sneaking over the crossbar, NSW enjoyed a 10-0 lead.
Queensland continued to look dangerous in attack and it took a brutal Ruan Sims tackle to stem the momentum; the NSW skipper was put on report for the shot on Karina Brown, however, giving the visitors more time on their opposition's line. They were forced into touch shortly after and NSW palmed off a real threat.
The women in maroon wouldn't be held out forever and with their next major attacking raid, Jenni-Sue Hoepper came up with a try. The centre took a ball from Steph Hancock to get her side on the board and Chelsea Baker converted, reducing the NSW lead to four points.
Some missed opportunities from the NSW Women - who continued to spent a lot of time down their left edge - would prevent them from adding to their tally in the first half. Some positive signs for NSW gave them a 10-6 lead at half-time.
Handling errors crept into the game early in the second stanza and with possession turned over multiple times, neither side was able to break the deadlock. NSW suffered a hit early in the second half with a devastating injury to Bremner, who left the field with an ankle complaint, forcing Moran to the custodian role and a reshuffle in the back line. Just five minutes later the sky blues managed to get on the board once again, however, thanks to yet another perfectly-placed bomb from Studdon. This time Corban McGregor was the beneficiary to take scores to 14-6.
Almost immediately, things turned from bad to worse for Queensland, with the right-hand side once again adding points. Vanessa Foliaki took a nice ball from Moran to score another and while the conversion attempt fell short once again, NSW enjoyed a healthy 18-6 advantage.
Momentum had well and truly swung in favour of NSW and it was now the right edge which was bringing the most joy to the local fans in attack. It seemed only a matter of time until Sergis brought up her hat-trick and she did so by running in the team's fifth, with the 19-year-old taking scores to 22-6.
A packed hill at WIN Stadium watched on as the Harvey Norman NSW Women played out the rest of the game, tasting interstate glory for a second consecutive time with a 22-6 victory.
NSW 22 (Jessica Sergis 2, Corban McGregor, Vanessa Foliaki tries; Caitlin Moran goal) def Queensland 6 (Jenni-Sue Hoepper try; Chelsea Baker goal)