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Shield back in Blues’ clutches after late Kelly try seals Women’s Origin thriller over Maroons

NSW have regained the Women’s State of Origin shield with a thrilling 20-14 win over Queensland in Canberra, with Blues centre Isabelle Kelly sealing the game with a late try.

Kelly deserved to have the decisive moment: she was superb all night, topping the metre chart and breaking eleven tackles in a player of the match performance.

Not far behind her were Emma Tonegato, who was a constant threat from the back, and Caitlan Johnston, the 21-year old interchange forward who dominated the middle.

The Blues average set distance was close to 50m, over ten more than their opponents, and that was where the game was won.

In front of a record crowd for the fixture, this was as high quality a fixture as the series has seen. One pities the other teams in the Women’s World Cup who will have to face a Jillaroos team picked from this talent pool.

With this set to be the final standalone Women’s Origin game, NSW will now enter next year’s two-game series only needing a tie to retain the shield. A three-game series must surely come sooner rather than later based on the quality of this game.

Queensland more than played their part. They thought they had nicked with a late try, only for the bunker to intervene, and will rue missed conversions in a game where both sides scored three tries.

The game started at breakneck pace. Queensland dominated the footy, but NSW were making big metres when they got it and went close early on, with Tonegato denied by a superb trysaver by fellow fullback Tamika Upton.

Having saved themselves, the Maroons bounced straight up the park and opened the scoring. It was a well created try, with Brittany Breayley-Nati dropping Destiny Brill on a crash line to score her second in consecutive Origins.

The Blues weren’t fazed. They struck back in the 14th minute and it was no surprise that Tonegato was at the heart of it. Her Dragons teammate Keeley Davis was the creator, sliding a smart reverse kick against the sliding Queensland defence for her fullback, who was able to reach the ball before it went dead.

NSW were purring. Kirra Dibb produced a stunning dummy in midfield to slice open the line before stepping inside Upton to extend the lead.

Not long after, however, her counterpart Tarryn Aiken would do the same, taking advantage of a smart scrumbase play to peg the Blues back.

As the half wore on, it became more attritional. NSW pushed, with the newly introduced Johnston battering through the middle and providing much needed thrust. She would have a superb end to the half.

Emma Tonegato runs the ball for NSW. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

She won a penalty on the Maroons’ line, allowing Rachael Pearson to kick NSW to a 14-10 lead before shutting down a dangerous Queensland attack with a crushing tackle that dislodged the ball.

Pearson’s boot would get the Blues going again in the second half, but the grind was relentless. NSW were getting the better of it through the hard carries of Jess Sergis and Kelly out wide and Millie Boyle through the middle, but couldn’t break the Maroon wall.

The resilience would be rewarded. With Aiken held close to the line, Evania Pelite was able to rob the ball from her own teammate and scurry to the corner to reduce the deficit to two. Only a post denied Lauren Brown from the touchline from levelling the scores.

Tiana Penitani thought she had scored at the corner, but the bunker disagreed and called a knock on in the build up. Simaima Taufa went close, but was happy to hand over the football a yard from the Maroons line and ask them to go the distance.

They very nearly did. Julia Robinson claimed an Ali Brigginshaw kick and offloaded to Shanae Ciesolka for a spectacular try, only for the bunker to call Robinson offside.

The Blues heeded the warning. Johnston laid the platform with a strong carry, Tonegato shovelled the ball wide and Kelly did the rest. It was appropriate that she had the final word.



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