|New South Wales Win U17 Clash
SHARP-shooting Parramatta youngster Nathan Gardner stole the limelight with 24 points as New South Wales trumped Queensland 52-18 in the Under 17 Origin clash at Telstra Stadium.
The Blues raced away from a hard-fought 12-all halftime scoreline, posting seven tries to one in a rampant second stanza.
It avenged a 42-16 thrashing in the same contest in 2006.
Eels winger Gardner was far from a lone hand in the victory, however his two tries and eight goals were impossible to ignore in the wash-up. Many of the conversions came from the sideline, curling them in both from left and right of the posts.
The masterful kicking display overshadowed one of the great tries of the year from Queensland fullback and Rockhampton Brothers talent Anthony Raymond, who scooped up a ball in his own in-goal and showed remarkable pace to run the length of the field.
Bizarrely, New South Wales team had four members stuck in the elevator at the team hotel before kick-off. Yet the home side didn’t waste any time breaking out of the blocks, winger Gardner pulled up just short in the second minute.
It looked for all money like the Blues would be first to score as they dominated early territory and were ruthless in defence. Backrower Mitch Johnson brought the first big roar of the evening with a smashing tackle on Queensland lock Chris Faust, before prop Tom Hancock stitched up winger Kieran English.
However Queensland absorbed the pressure and stood its ground. When a succession of penalties fell their way, five-eighth Andrew McCullough set his feet and launched a pinpoint kick for winger Steven Elliott to score out wide.
At 6-0 ahead, McCullough then threatened to dominate the match. His kick-chase was fierce and he took a heap of stopping when on the charge.
Once more though, the game delivered the unexpected and New South Wales was next to score, captain Wade Graham providing a brutal fend on custodian Raymond to cross, followed by a beautiful sideline conversion from Gardner.
Gardner returned to the same position four minutes later, this time touching down himself after a strong run and offload from fullback Lachlan Coote. Again the winger converted from the touchline.
New South Wales’ lead lasted until three minutes before halftime when workaholic backrower Ryan Hansen threw a great offload on his way to the turf, finding Wide Bay’s Dan Cross off his hip.
The 12-all halftime score was indicative of an enthralling contest to that point, where the passion and skill was befitting of the Origin arena.
Unfortunately for Queensland, it was the 20 minutes proceeding the break which had the most influence on the outcome.
The Blues hammered down four tries in one-way traffic, with Gardner grabbing his second and Greg Waddell scoring two pearlers.
Lightning-quick Raymond interjected briefly with his crowd pleaser in the 57th minute, however there was no follow-up to the effort and the Blues ended the game with another three successive tries.
NEW SOUTH WALES 52 (Greg Waddell 3, Nathan Gardner 2, Lachlan Coote 2, Wade Graham, Adam Reynolds tries; Nathan Gardner 8 goals) d QUEENSLAND 18 (Anthony Raymond, Steven Elliott, Dan Cross tries; Ryan Hansen 3 goals) at Telstra Stadium. | PHOTO GALLERY |