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Stewart shines as NSW completes a hat-trick of wins

The CABE NSW Under 19s Men’s team registered a three-peat of State of Origin wins with a hard-fought 14-10 victory over Queensland at Leichhardt Oval tonight.

The three tries-to-two victory was underpinned by superb football from the Blues’ spine – fullback Chevy Stewart, halves Jake Elliott and Mitchell Woods, along with hooker Matt Arthur.

Elliott and Woods’ kicking game set the stage for the win, which now follows NSW’s triumphs in 2022 and 2023.

Stewart’s kick returns and ironclad hands under the high ball earned him the Player of the Match award.

The win also gave coach and True Blue Andrew Ryan his third consecutive win at the helm.

The night didn’t start out the best for NSW co-captain Jesse McLean. His evening lasted only two minutes when he was taken off for an HIA but didn’t return.

It allowed Newcastle’s Kurt Gidley Medal winner from 2023 in UNE Harold Matthews Cup, Connor Votano, to come off the bench far earlier than expected.

It was anyone’s game at halftime with NSW enjoying a slim 10-6 lead. They had scored two first-half tries but had been frustrated by another two near misses.

Stewart, one of the three survivors from the 2023 NSW Under 19s side, showed why he made his NRL debut for the Canberra Raiders this year.

The game was just six minutes old when he brushed aside defenders in a strong and straight run from 10 metres out. 

Late in the half Votano was in the right place at the right time as an Elliott corner kick landed in his arms. He spun and stretched out to score in the 29th minute.

But in between those two opportunities, a couple of other chances turned sour.

Right winger Micheal Gabrael thought he’d chased a Mitchell Woods grubber perfectly but bunker replays showed he knocked on over the line. Then four minutes later Elliott sent a long, floating ball to put Votano in the clear but referee Wyatt Raymond called it forward.

Things got interesting 10 minutes into the second when a simple left-edge shift brought Queensland’s second try to winger Tyreece Tait. Coby Black missed the sideline conversion but it silenced the Leichhardt Oval crowd with a 10-all score-line.

It came after NSW appeared to have the momentum off some classy field-possession kicks by Elliott and Woods. Stewart had also made a 50-metre kick return to spur on his teammates.

Elliott and Woods looked to have put Gabrael through for NSW’s third try in the 49th minute, when they both employed kicks in the same play. But the Bunker ruled Elliott had knocked on.

Finally, the third try came with Elliott once more being the genesis. His banana kick to the short side was batted back by Votano to Stewart, who found his co-captain Matt Arthur in support. 

NSW clung onto a four-point lead (14-10) with nine minutes left on the clock but did not go into their shell. Stewart racked up his 13th tackle bust as he tried to chase the ball into Queensland’s in-goal. 

Then prop Fanafou Seve dragged five Maroons bodies over the line but couldn’t ground the ball.

But the home side asserted itself throughout by running for 500 metres further than the Maroons and making 100 more post-contact metres. They also made double the tackle-busts (50 to 25), and seven offloads to two.

Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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