The New South Wales Sky Blues reclaimed the Women’s State of Origin shield for the third time in five years after defeating their Queensland counterparts 20 – 14 in Canberra on Friday night.
In front of a new record crowd of 11,321 who braved the chilly 10 degrees at GIO stadium, both teams started strong from the kick off with both teams delivering some bone-rattling hits, and not giving up until the full time siren.
Destiny Brill put the Maroons on the board early when she went over in the 8th minute, only for NSW to hit back in the 13th minute with Emma Tonegato pouncing on a Keeley Davis grubber that was inches from rolling out, taking the lead 6-4 with a successful conversion from Rachael Pearson.
Kirra Dibb returned to the origin arena after 2 years, breaking through the QLD defence and scoring in the 15th minute with Pearson again adding the extras.
The Maroons scored again when Tarryn Aiken took on the line and found a gap in the defence in the 21st minute, with captain Ali Brigginshaw adding the extras to trail by only 2 points before heading into the sheds at half time. The Sky Blues’ half time lead was their first in Women’s Origin history, and they were determined to hold onto it until the end, but the Maroons had no intention of making it an easy task.
Queensland returned to the field minus the experience of veteran Steph Hancock who failed an HIA after a head knock just prior to half time that was reviewed during the break.
Rugby Sevens Olympic gold medallist Evania Pelite crossed for the Maroons in the corner in the 56th minute, and Lauren Brown looked certain to bring the scores level with her conversion only for it to hit the post and bounce back into the field and the Sky Blues held on to yet another 2 point lead.
With 10 minutes to go, the line speed of the Sky Blues started to drop off, but they weren’t about to call it quits. They continued to run up the middle of the field, putting pressure on the defence and backing them into a corner, only for Queensland to repay the favour.
Tiana Penitani looked to extend the lead for New South Wales, only for the try to be denied by the bunker who ruled that the ball was knocked on. With 7 minutes left, the next try scored was certain to be the match winner.
Sky Blues debutant Caitlan Johnston made her mark on the game, showing no fear when running into the defence and taking all that the Maroons could throw at her, and putting pressure on their kickers.
The game looked to be sealed with a Maroons 3-peat when Julia Robinson scored with 5 minutes to go, only for the bunker’s review to show she was offside and the try was denied.
Isabelle Kelly scored the game winning try for the Sky Blues when she barrelled over 2 defenders in the corner, and was the well-deserved recipient of the Nellie Doherty medal for woman of the match.
NSW coach Kylie Hilder expressed how proud she was of her side’s victory, saying “the bond we have as a team, not just on the field but off it as well, I think that showed out on the field.” Hilder went on to explain that these teams are always changing and that “on occasions where we’ve just won, we’re going to make sure we really celebrate because come 2023 this same group won’t be the same.”
QLD coach Tahnee Norris expressed her disappointment for the side’s defeat, saying “it was a tough one, I’m still feeling at the moment and obviously will for a while”. Norris said they “couldn’t capitalise on a couple of opportunities there and the girls fought right to the end.” “To see the girls put in so much effort (and lose) really, really hurt.”
NEW SOUTH WALES: 20 TRIES: E. Tonegato, K. Dibb, I. Kelly CONVERSIONS: R. Pearson 2/3 PENALTY GOALS: R. Pearson 2/2
QUEENSLAND: 14 TRIES: D. Brill, T. Aiken, E. Pelite CONVERSIONS: A. Brigginshaw 1/3
LOZ’S STAND OUT PLAYERS: E. Tonegato (NSW), C. Johnston (NSW), K. Davis (NSW), E. Pelite (QLD), T. Harden (QLD), D. Brill (QLD)