The NSW Under 19s returned to the State of Origin arena with a vengeance tonight after scoring a commanding 32-4 win over Queensland at Leichhardt Oval.
It was the first time an Under 19s game had been played in three years with the previous two editions forced to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
NSW halfback Jonah Pezet was named Player of the Match after a dominant performance which saw him set up four tries. NSW were 4-0 down early but rallied strongly after that to never look back. They took a 24-4 lead into the break and although Queensland fought back in the second half they still managed to hold them scoreless.
“I’d like to thank Queensland for the game tonight, it was tough out there for both of us,” Pezet said.
“Thanks to the coaching staff for the week, it’s been outstanding and to our boys it’s been unbelievable. Thanks to all the fans, families and friends for coming out and up NSW!”
NSW captain and prop Trey Mooney said: “It was exciting. It was good to see the young boys step up and play an awesome game.
“I live for the big games and moments like this and hopefully I can continue on with my career.”
Queensland went on the attack early with Mooney pulling out a great tackle on his own line to save an early try. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to halt the momentum of the visitors with halfback Thomas Duffy putting a deft kick through for winger Jacob Mene to score. Duffy was unable to land the sideline conversion, but Queensland had an early 4-0 lead.
From that point on it was all NSW for the rest of the first half. Centre Brad Morkos got the ball rolling with a nice catch and pass for winger Utuloa Asomua to step back past the goal-line defence and score. Five-eighth Thomas Weaver landed the conversion for a 6-4 lead.
Halfback Jonah Pezet then took over after throwing a cut-out pass for centre Paul Alamoti to take advantage of a Queensland defender slipping over to score. Weaver again banged over the conversion to make it 12-4.
Pezet then showed great skill to shape to grubber kick before noticing that winger Jack Bostock was looming out wide. The NSW halfback put a deft kick over the top which went over the head of Mene and into the arms of Bostock to touch down. Weaver had no trouble with the sideline conversion to make it 18-4.
Pezet completed the first half rout when he placed a grubber kick through which shaved the post and slowed up just enough for Weaver to grab and plant down before sliding past the dead ball line. He maintained his perfect kicking record from right in front to put NSW in control at 24-4 at the break.
It was a flawless first-half performance for NSW who had 52 per cent of possession, completed 19 of 20 sets and ran 805 metres to Queensland’s 665.
The second half got off to a tough start for both sides after NSW’s Jacob Webster and Queensland’s Benjamin Te Kura clashed heads and were ruled out for the rest of the match. Queensland had their opportunities to score but the NSW defence held tough and denied them each time.
The best chance came when Duffy put a kick through for five-eighth Harradyn Wilson but NSW back-rower Oryn Keeley arrived to tackle him, dislodge the ball and save the day.
Queensland were then reduced to 12 players after hooker Blake Mozer was given 10 minutes in the sin bin for a dangerous throw on Pezet. Weaver landed the penalty goal to extend the lead to 26-4.
Pezet then capped a memorable night when he threw a pass over the top for Asomua to cross out wide for his second try of the night. Weaver confirmed it was going to be a night where everything was going to go right for NSW after his conversion went over after hitting the upright.
“We came into camp on Saturday and we just gelled together so well,” Weaver said.
“That just showed on the field out there, it was great to get the win.
“We knew they were going to come out strong from the start. We knew we just had to hang in there and keep going and we’d win it in the back end.
“To be able to play in our home ground in NSW was awesome and it was awesome to get the win here.”