Panthers trio star in U18s Origin victory
A try by prop Stefano Utoikamanu with four minutes to play secured a 16-10 win for the NSW under-18s against Queensland under-18s on Wednesday night at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Queensland had a chance with 30 seconds left but NSW managed to keep out Tanah Boyd on their own try-line.
It typified a frantic and tense game that saw the lead shift three times throughout.
The Blues have now won nine out of 11 under-18 clashes since the match's inception in 2008.
NSW managed to gain parity after half-time as man-of the-match Utoikamanu led the way up front along with five-eighth Jock Madden.
Queensland showed their intent early in defence to force NSW back in the opening minutes.
And after Xavier Coates found metres up the middle, Tino Fa'ausuamaleaui opened the scoring for Queensland after barging through three Blues players in the 10th minute.
Boyd converted from the sideline for an impressive 6-0 start.
The Maroons' big men – led by captain David Fifta and Garrett Smith – started to dominate through the edges with their superior size often leaving Blues players sprawled on the MCG turf.
NSW had their best chance in the first half when second-rower Egan Butcher came close on the right side but his outstretched hand came up short.
The Blues jumped out of the blocks straight after the break through a try to Bronson Xerri, after Phoenix Crossland's cross-field kick found space. Madden converted from the touchline to level the scores at 6-6.
Only moments later, NSW took the lead when quick passing down the right from Butcher and Xerri allowed Jason Saab to run clear untouched.
But the Queenslanders hit back after an energetic run by Ethan Bullemor – who found space up the centre – and scored their second try through Fifita who powered past Bradman Best and Tommy Talau to level the scores at 10-10.
NSW butchered numerous chances in the final 15 minutes until Utoikamanu's try made it 16-10.