NSW has delivered the first blow ahead of their State of Origin title defence with both the City and Country sides advancing to the Harvey Norman National Championships final.
City will take on Country for the title on Sunday in what is basically a repeat of last season, with South East Queensland and Queensland Country to play off for third in a curtain raiser at Pizzey Park on Sunday.
The Championships double as a selection trial for players ahead of Origin on June 21, while representatives from NRLW clubs Brisbane, St George Illawarra and the Roosters were in attendance to offer contracts.
A hat-trick to Tiana Penitani helped NSW City book their spot in the final after they overcame a six-point deficit to beat SEQ 22-18.
With scores level at 18-18 with five minutes remaining, some smart thinking from Botille Vette-Welsh to produce a one-on-one strip enabled Jess Sergis to charge over the line to break the deadlock.
But the result was put down largely to rugby sevens convert, Penitani, who crossed for two tries in eight minutes to rattle SEQ in the second half after they led 12-6 at half-time.
Earlier, NSW City lost Rebecca Riley for a head injury assessment in the early stages but the crafty hooker returned in humid conditions on the Gold Coast.
A blistering run from Penitani opened the scoring for NSW City, with the winger busting past Rosemary Vaimili Toalepai and Tanika Marshall to race 50 metres to the line.
SEQ were quick to respond with two tries to Jillaroos representatives Tazmin Gray and one to Ali Brigginshaw giving the Queensland outfit a 12-6 lead.
Incumbent Maroons captain Karina Brown came up with a strong defensive tackle on St George Illawarra centre Sergis to stop a certain try, before Brown was bundled into touch in response with the try-line wide open.
Sarah Togatuki (knee) failed to return for NSW City after half-time as SEQ shut down two raids before Shanice Parker burrowed over the line from dummy-half to narrow the lead.
NSW City forged ahead with 14 minutes remaining despite a huge tackle from Rona Peters on Aliti Namoce rattling Pizzey Park.
Corban McGregor linked with Sydney Roosters teammate Shontelle Stowers on the left edge to send Penitani over for a double.
Penitani's third in a near identical backline movement gave NSW City breathing space momentarily but a burrowing run under the posts from Rona Peters levelled the scores 18-18 with five minutes left.
A draw was on the cards before Vette-Welsh's strip led to Sergis's match-winning try.
In the later game, NSW Country overcame a gallant Queensland Country in the second half to win 20-14.
The reigning champions, guided by Samoan coach Matt Parish, skipped out to a 12-4 lead at halftime with Shakiah Tungai diving over for a double in the corner.
Queensland Country struck back with a try to incumbent Maroons winger Rhiannon Revell-Blair, before NSW City fullback Tess Staines was sent to the sin-bin three minutes later.
Former Jillaroos playmaker Jenni-Sue Hoepper took advantage of the extra overlap to weave her way over the line and reduce NSW Country's lead to two.
But the result was sealed late with Tungai shrugging off defenders to grab her third.
St George Illawarra teammate Rikeya Horne add the icing on the cake with a sharp-stepping effort on the full-time siren.
Draw & Results
Day 1 - Thursday May 30
NSW City 46 (Kiana Takairangi 3, Corban McGregor 3, Sarah Togatuki, Botille Vette-Welsh, Shaylee Bent tries; Maddie Studdon 4, Kaarla Cowan 1 goals) defeated Combined Affiliate States 0.
NSW Country 54 (Shakiah Tungai 3, Bobbi Law 3, Kezie Apps 2, Tess Staines, Kaitlyn Phillips, Rikeya Horne tries; Kirra Dibb 5 goals) defeated Australian Defence Force 0.
Day 2 - Friday May 31
SEQ 44 (Rosemary Vaimili Toalepai 2, Rona Peters, Jessika Elliston, Tanika Marshall, Tarryn Aiken, Kelsey Parkin, Ali Brigginshaw, Taimane Levu, Amber Pilley tries; Ali Brigginshaw 3 goals) defeated Combined Affiliate States 0.
Queensland Country 40 (Stephanie Mooka 2, Chelsea Baker 2, Layla Fauid, Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Brianna Clarke tries; Chelsea Baker 6 goals) defeated ADF 0.
Day 3 - Saturday June 1
NSW City 22 (Tiana Penitani 3, Shanice Parker, Jessica Sergis tries; Maddie Studdon 1 goal) defeated South East Queensland 18 (Tazmin Gray, Ali Brigginshaw, Rona Peters tries; Ali Brigginshaw 3 goals)
NSW Country 20 (Shakiah Tungai 3, Rikeya Horne tries; Kirra Dib 1, Melanie Howard 1 goal) defeated Queensland Country 14 (Rhiannon Revell-Blair, Jenni-Sue Hoepper, Shaniah Power tries; Chelsea Baker 1 goal)
Day 4 - Sunday June 2
- 10.30am – Combined Affiliate States v Australian Defence Force
- 12.00pm – Queensland Country v South East Queensland (Fox League)
- 1.45pm – NSW City v NSW Country (Fox League)
Matches will be live streamed via NRL.com, with the final two matches of the Championship (on Sunday) broadcast on Fox League.