The NSW Under 16s have retained the Under-16 State of Origin shield for the third consecutive year, defeating Queensland 28-14 at Suncorp Stadium.
In an effort which ramped up its intensity in the second half, front-rower and captain Trey Mooney was oustanding while Kaeo Weekes and Donovan Boney had fantastic moments in a pleasing team effort. The win caps a largely victorious 2018 for each of the NSWRL Pathways teams.
Match: QLD U16s v NSW U16s
Venue: Suncorp Stadium
It didn't take long for the visitors to get on the board, with the first try of the match coming off the back of a Queensland error. A right-to-left shift utilised the entire NSW spine, before finding centre Zion Tauasa in the south-eastern corner. A fine conversion from Donovan Boney extended the lead to six.
With early pressure building, Tyreece Matangi looked likely for a four-pointer before knocking the ball on and turning over possession. The first penalty of the match followed, going in Queensland's favour and resulting in a try. Maroons fullback and captain Reece Walsh ran a good line to beat Noah Griffiths and score, with his side's opening try going unconverted.
Errors began to take hold of the game, with both sides guilty of dropping the ball - but much of the next period was played in NSW's own end.
The visitors weren't helping themselves with wayward offloads hurting their cause, but 21 minutes into the contest Boney looked destined for the line. The fullback was pushed into touch, however, with the visitors' chance going begging.
Having absorbed a mountain pressure, NSW finally took their second try at the end of the 30-minute half. A fantastic run from five-eighth Kaeo Weekes got the side in broken play, with the ensuing play finding Boney and Thomas Cant in the corner. With the conversion attempt waved away, it left a 10-all half-time scoreline.
The second half saw NSW come out with plenty of attacking flare, however an early opportunity saw an offload thrown into the hands of Queensland. Soon after, it would once again be Weekes to break open the play for the visitors; the five-eighth ran himself to give his side the lead four minutes into the second half.
Soon after, Queensland probed the NSW line in a try-scoring effort, only to be held up in-goal in a magnificent NSW tackle in the south-west corner. An intercept moments later saw prolific tryscorer Matthew Komolafe run 90 metres downfield and while the winger is renowned for his speed, he was taken into touch by opposite-side Queensland winger Xavier Savage.
When NSW were awarded a differential penalty near the Maroons' line, they rued the missed opportunity to take the two points - but not for long. Immediately after taking the tap, the junior Blues send the ball right, where Viliami Penisini would pull off a fine individual effort to beat five Queenslanders and score. While the kick came off the upright, NSW had a 20-10 lead.
Queensland soon gave themselves some hope when second-rower Brocco Ughle crashed through the defensive line, offloading to Keegan Vandenberg to score, with the conversion attempt again sailing wide.
Four minutes later, however, halfback Noah Griffiths all but sealed the result with a show-and-go which would put the icing on the cake of a great victory. Turning inside to score the visitors' final try, the conversion then gave NSW a 26-14 scoreline.
With the clock winding down and the shield destined to remain at NSWRL HQ, Scott Jones' men opted to take the penalty goal when given an opportunity in the dying stages. While a line-break off the restart threatened to extend the NSW lead further, the final score would be 28-14 in favour of NSW.