By Joel Moss (NSWRL)
The NSW Cup Representatives Team has narrowly fallen short 36-32 against the Queensland Residents in a highly-entertaining affair at Tapout Energy Stadium in Brisbane.
NSW trailed 30-22 before almost pulling off the miraculous victory after five-eight Darren Nicholls slammed the ball over the line to cut the deficit to just two points with five minutes remaining.
However, QLD halfback Shaun Nona steered his side to a well-earned victory in showing why he has a bright career ahead of him, scoring a try and setting up several more.
Conditions were perfect for a captivating physical contest featuring end-to-end attack full of highlights and impressive defensive efforts.
Chanel Mata’utia was a standout for NSW putting on an acrobatic display in scoring two seemingly-impossible tries.
Mata’utia used his gymnastics to plant the ball in the left corner while his body hung over the sideline before he repeated his breath-taking effort again with another try before falling over the sideline.
Queensland were first to open proceedings when they went down the right sideline as Kenny Bromwich passed to Kyle Feldt before finding Javid Bowen to score for an early 6-0 lead.
A nifty pass from Mitch Cornish found Barnett through a gaping hole for NSW to level the scores after ten minutes. With a majority of possession in the first half, NSW began to hit their straps in attack but were unable to convert several opportunities due to resilient Queensland defence.
Levi Dodd and Nathan Gardner linked up for an excellent piece of play for NSW to take a 12-6 lead. Gardner placed Dodd through a small gap for Dodd to avoid being tackled into the sideline and offload back to Gardner to score the try.
Frustratingly for NSW who were in full control of the match, Queensland were gifted possession in an attacking position. Coming off the bench, Matt Parcell barraged his way from dummy half to tie the scores 12-all before NSW retook the lead with Mata’utia’s magical try.
However, Queensland entered halftime with a questionable 18-16 lead after the tackle count was curiously restarted for Feldt to score.
Nona extended Queensland’s lead as he cleverly placed a grubber kick behind the defensive line for Kalifa Faifai Loa to score the first of his two tries.
Going against the momentum, NSW desperately countered on the attack for Will Matthews to be pulled up only millimetres from the try line before Nathan Green crossed the try line before it being ruled for a forward pass.
NSW struck back for a crucial try as Peter Mata’utia tapped the ball to his brother to score his second try before Gardner slotted the sideline conversion to cut the deficit to two points.
Nona proved to be the difference between the two sides in an exceptional performance. Queensland lead 24-22 as Nona regathered his own grubber kick from 15 metres out from the try line to score on the fourth tackle with 14 minutes remaining.
NSW persisted as they trailed 30-22 and despite failing to capitalise their opportunities to score, they gave themselves a slight chance to escape with the win when Nicholls scored.
Faifai Loa grabbed his second try before NSW scored a consolation try on the final play of the match.
For NSW, Mitch Williams was instrumental out of dummy half in always keeping the opposition guessing the direction of play while Gardner demonstrated his extensive first grade experience in attack and defence.
Queensland Residents 36. Tries: Faifai Loa (2), Feldt, Bowen, Nona, Parcell. Goals: Nona (6/6).
NSW Cup Representatives 32. Tries: C Mata’utia (2), Barnett (2), Gardner, Nicholls. Goals: Gardner (4/6).