The Queensland and New South Wales Under-16s Indigenous sides have played out a pulsating 24-all draw at the Harvey Norman All Stars on the Gold Coast.
Locked up at 10-all at half-time, the Maroons appeared on course for victory only for the Blues to snatch a draw after the fulltime siren with five-eighth Braeden Stewart nailing a penalty goal from 30 metres out.
The drawn result enabled Queensland to retain the Origin shield in a contest not short on feeling and bruising hits.
The Blues opened their account inside the opening five minutes when hulking prop Zac Saddler crashed over the line from close range to hand the NSW Koori a 6-0 lead.
That initial attacking foray would be the last opportunity the Blues would have to crack Queensland’s line until late in the first half as the hosts enjoyed the majority of field position in the aftermath of Saddler’s try.
With the Blues struggling to slug it out of their own end, the Queensland Under-16s hit the lead with quickfire tries to winger Dwight Daly and halfback Braydon Trindall to take the score to 10-6.
Two minutes out from half-time NSW levelled the score at 10-10 when stocky back-rower Josh Curren found the line adjacent to the posts, although Stewart shanked his conversion attempt to keep the scoreboard level at the main break.
NSW were the first to cross in the second half when nippy halfback Tristan Reilly dashed over from close to the line before the Maroons struck back three minutes later when David Fifita – cousin of Sharks’ siblings David and Andrew Fifita – crossed to level the score yet again.
The Blues were reduced to 12 men with 12 minutes left on the clock as Allen Lockwood was sent to the sin-bin as the result of an all-in scuffle and the Queenslanders took full advantage four minutes later when lively five-eighth Travis Turnbull toed the ball behind the NSW line for speedy fullback Denzel Burns to score.
Turnbull added the extras to take Queensland Murri out to a 24-16 lead; however the Blues crossed for their fourth try three minutes from fulltime to narrow the margin to two points.
NSW threw everything they could at the tiring Maroons, eventually drawing a penalty for a high shot 30 metres out directly in front of goal to enable the Blues a chance at squaring the contest.
Stewart steadied himself before confidently drilling the penalty kick over the uprights after the full-time siren to ensure the match finished at 24-24.
Queensland Under-16s Indigenous 24 (Dwight Daly, Braydon Trindall, David Fifita, Denzel Burns tries; Travis Turnbull 4 goals) drew with New South Wales Under-16s Indigenous 24 (Tristan Reilly 2, Zac Saddler, Josh Curren tries; Braeden Stewart 4 goals) at Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast. Half-time: 10-10. Sin-bin: Allen Lockwood (NSW).