Women's Interstate Challenge ends in draw
The Queensland Maroons have retained the Nellie Doherty Cup for the 17th straight year after surviving a second-half onslaught from New South Wales to escape with a 4-4 draw at 1300SMILES Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
This was a tense, gritty contest underscored by desperate, frantic defence including a couple of massive first-half hits by Maroons centre Kody House.
Both states remained scoreless for the best part of half an hour in a sloppy opening riddled with errors, poor fifth-tackle execution and little attacking opportunity.
New South Wales' best shot at points came on the back of Maroons fullback Karina Brown's knock-on off a high ball, but Blues centre Mahalia Murphy dropped it early in the ensuing set to release the pressure.
Queensland turned the tables and were first to score on the game's best piece of execution half an hour in.
On the swiftest move of the match the Maroons went left, with Brown making a sweeping run to the outside and drawing Blues winger Shani Sleeman off Baker who touched down in the corner.
The Maroons opened the second half looking to add to the margin with a textbook first set, sending the ball into touch at New South Wales' five-metre line.
Second-rower Renae Kunst almost made it 8-0 if not for some desperate double-teaming on the goal line by the Blues.
Queensland repeated the dose minutes later, triple-teaming Vanessa Foliaki into touch trying to work it out of trouble.
But more errors gave possession back to the Blues who came home with a wet sail.
"They had a lot of speed behind them. They were just rolling down the field, but we stuck it out until the last tackle. We did really well in defence," Maroons five-eighth Jenni Sue Hoepper said after the game.
Running over the top of Queensland for the better part of the final 30 minutes, the Blues were rolling the ruck with ease as the combination of poor execution and staunch Queensland defence denied points time after time.
On one occasion the Blues had a three-on-zero overlap in a broken play, yet instead of working it through hands, put boot to ball trying to find Sleeman in the corner. The kick had too much on it and beat Sleeman to the touchline.
But in the 65th minute they finally hit paydirt on a slick shift to the right to put Isabelle Kelly over the line in the same spot as Queensland's first-half try.
The conversion started right and tried to come back but it wasn't enough as the Blues owned the final 15 minutes, but could not make it count on the scoreboard thanks to some trademark Queensland grit.
"I've never played in a team that has put that much effort into defence," Heopper said.
"We just dug that much deeper whenever we were on the back foot. Everyone was there for each other, so it was great."
Queensland 4 (Chelsea Baker try) drew with New South Wales 4 (Isabelle Kelly try). Half-time: Maroons 4-0.