Utoikamanu Seals NSW Under 18s Win
The NSW Under-18 side have turned around a 6-0 half-time deficit to register their a win over the Queensland Under-18 team, running out 16-10 winners at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
It would take a late Stefano Utoikamanu try - and a later defensive effort from captain Shawn Blore - to seal the result, which was their third consecutive victory over Queensland. Utoikamanu was named Man of the Match after a fine display with and without the ball.
Off the back of a strong set, Queensland were able to snatch the first points through Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who got his arm free and reached out for the line.
Queensland were pulled up for an obstruction shortly afterwards, before the Blues were cruelly denied at the back end of the first half when Bronson Xerri flicked a magic ball for Egan Butcher to get a chance, but he was ruled to have put the ball down a millimetre from the line.
NSW came firing out of the blocks as they came out of the sheds for the second half, scoring their first try of the game in the very first set. Phoenix Crossland put up a bomb on last tackle which was missed by everyone, before Jason Saab re-gathered it on the bounce and threw it to Xerri who scored in the corner.
A botched attempt at an intercept gave NSW field position once again, and they took the lead for the first time in the match thanks to a perfectly executed left-to-right shift that was finished off in the corner by Saab.
Saab almost scored immediately afterwards when a bomb once again found the turf, but he couldn’t get a grip on the ball. Queensland then marched downfield off the next set and scored through David Fifita.
Shawn Blore then pulled off the tackle of the match when Queensland looked destined to score, rattling the bones of the ball carrier and stopping him dead in his tracks when he was close to the line.
A grind ensued and the 10-all score remained - although it looked to be broken when Best made another break down the NSW left edge, finding a racing Tallis Angianga. The winger's attempted inside pass for Saab, however, was knocked down by opposing fullback, denying the try but giving the men in blue another attacking set.
Stefano Utoikamanu wasted little time in converting the next opportunity, barging over to score beneath the posts for a try which was converted. It left a 16-10 scoreline with less than three minutes remaining.
Queensland weren't done with and it would come down to a captain-on-captain play to decide the contest. The junior Maroons' David Fifita made a break but was dragged down by opposite number Blore - and with NSW holding off another attacking raid in the ensuing play, they saw out the historic 16-10 victory.