The Harvey Norman NSW Under 19s Women’s team has made it a three-peat in the Women’s State of Origin Under 19s match after a comprehensive 22-6 win over Queensland at Leichhardt Oval.
NSW were headed only briefly 6-4 in the first half but fought their way back to take an 8-4 lead into the break and emerged in the second half to run away with the match. NSW won the match when it was first played as an Under 18s match in 2019, and have now made it back-to-back wins after the concept was changed to Under 19s for 2021-22.
Centre Andie Robinson scored a hat-trick, five-eighth Losana Lutu was constantly scheming and winger Petesa Lio came up with a couple of telling runs but the star of the show was fullback Jada Taylor.
Taylor was a deserved Player of the Match after coming up with two tries, a try assist and three line breaks with the highlight clearly being a length of the field try in the final 10 minutes to seal the result and break Queensland’s hearts in the process.
“We had a special week in camp so it was very important for us to get out here and put on a really good performance for our state, our families and all of the crowd,” Taylor said.
“It’s very important and very special to receive it (Player of the Match award) but I definitely think it’s off the back of a lot of hard work – of my team not me.”
Lutu was proving a handful for the Queensland defence early on and had her fingerprints all over the opening try after passing for Taylor who quickly tipped the ball on for Andie Robinson.
The NSW centre then stepped her way back infield and dummied her way past Queensland fullback Chantay Kiria-Ratu to establish a 4-0 lead for the home team.
Queensland hit back through their five-eighth Jada Ferguson who sparked a break down the sideline through winger Jetaya Faifua. Ferguson backed up in support and finished the move off with Kiria-Ratu landing the conversion for a 6-4 lead.
NSW took the advantage after Taylor caught the Queensland goal-line defence off guard; barging her way through two defenders from dummy-half before wheeling around to plant the ball down. NSW hooker Rueben Cherrington was unable to land the conversion but the home team had their noses back in front 8-6.
A mistake from the kick-off opened the door for Queensland to score but the NSW defence held tough to bundle Faifua into touch. Taylor then showed nerves of steel to defuse a kick after an awkward bounce and find the ground before she could be driven back into goal.
Queensland had one final opportunity to score before the break after Ferguson got an offload away for Otesa Pule but replays showed the back-rower had lost the ball in the process of grounding it to leave NSW just in front 8-6 at half-time.
NSW were under siege shortly after play resumed but the defence held tough with Queensland forward Jacinta Carter losing the ball as she tried to rush to her feet. Queensland winger Helen Uitualagi had a chance after making a beeline for the corner but again was denied by the defence.
Winger Petesa Lio then produced a big run to get NSW out of trouble and although the Queensland defence was able to shut her down the damage had been done. Lutu shaped to go one way before stepping back the other for Robinson to accelerate through a gap and grab her second.
It was Taylor’s turn then to produce a massive run, turning the Queensland fullback inside out along the way, to get NSW out of trouble and put them on the attack again. With the Queensland defence on the back foot, NSW shifted the ball wide for Robinson to dive over for her hat-trick.
“It feels pretty good (to score a hat-trick) but that comes off the back of my team’s work and it’s my job to finish the tries,” Robinson said.
Taylor then saved the best moment for last when she defused a grubber kick in-goal before finding a way back into the field of play. She then pinned the ears back and set sail upfield to score length of the field try and put the exclamation point on a memorable victory.