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QLD U/17s in dazzling win over NSW
IT WAS spectacular and controversial and in the long run the good guys won. Queensland raised its first victory over New South Wales this year with a 42-16 win in the Under 17s prelude to Origin II.
In one of the most eye-catching curtain-raisers in recent Origin times, Queensland responded from a 16-14 halftime deficit to storm home in front of a rabid hometown crowd.
The match was already set to make headlines before the game began, with five New South Wales players withdrawn for misbehaving at Sydney Airport.
Come game time and it took just four minutes for fans to be talking about something else.
Lurking out wide, Queensland winger Michael Cummins scooped up a loose ball and raced 80m before being mowed down in impressive fashion by Blues custodian Zoram Watene. Three minutes later and the fans were again on their feet, this time for Watene?s counterpart, ever-cheeky Maroons fullback Chris Sandow.
Already being compared to Matt Bowen, Sandow produced a freakish effort over 70m, showing the defenders the ball, jinking around them, producing a fantastic fend and then blasting away.
New South Wales saw fit to respond in similar manner and a spectacular try to William Isa in the 12th minute leveled the score 4-all. Isa chased down a grubber inches inside the dead-ball line and with no video assistance, referee Justin Davis produced the correct call under pressure.
The visiting Blues moved ahead 10-4 when skipper Mitchell Pearce plucked an intercept and ran almost 100m untouched. Although the long-range efforts were crowd-pleasing, Maroons fans became anxious once more when Sandow sent another intercept to the waiting Daniel Mortimer.
A try in between to Queensland backrower Kevin Proctor and one just moments before halftime to Ben Jones allayed their fears somewhat.
Down by two points at the break, the Maroons were challenged with ending New South Wales? dominance at all levels in 2006. They responded magnificently, trapping New South Wales in-goal on one of their earliest attacking plays of the second half.
Highly-rated centre Israel Folau also broke the shackles which had been imposed in the first stanza, coming into his own with strong running out wide.
The Norths Devils colt produced a wonderful one-handed pass while being tackled to put Cummins in the clear, starting a sudden deluge of tries.
In the blink of an eye Queensland raced in two more four-pointers, the next to Sandow, who collected a bomb, dived over and then raised the ?Q? emblem on his chest to the crowd.
Folau then snared a try of his own, running a good line onto a pass and proving too powerful and evasive for the NSW defence. All of a sudden it was 30-14 and the home side could do no wrong. Even when Queensland botched its opportunities, it did so in fortuitous fashion.
A point in case was a crazy ad-lib play on the last tackle, where one player kicked the ball 20m backwards to a teammate. The ball was subsequently kicked again, but with the majority of chasers at least 30m offside. Somehow the ball found touch just metres out from the tryline.
The dying stages brought two more tries to Queensland; hard-working forwards Joel Romelo and Billy Rogers justly rewarded.
In the wash-up New South Wales did not deserve to be beaten by as much, but it was unlikely any sympathy was felt along the rows of Suncorp Stadium.
QUEENSLAND U17 42 (Chris Sandow 2, Ben Jones, Israel Folau, Michael Cummins, Billy Rogers, Joel Romelo, Kevin Proctor tries; Chris Sandow 4, Galu Te?o goals) d NEW SOUTH WALES U17 16 (Mitchell Pearce, Daniel Mortimer, William Isa tries; Daniel Mortimer 2 goals) at Suncorp Stadium.