January is not usually a time for rugby league teams to join, rejoin or quit competitions – or for State of Origin sides to go into camp.
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Many years of practice turned into glorious reality for NSW captain Ash Hewson as she landed an after-the-siren extra-time penalty goal to give her team a dramatic 16-13 win in the inaugural Super W women’s rugby final at Allianz Stadium.
Fullback Hewson pulled off a sensational try-saving tackle on Queensland counterpart Samantha Treherne just before fulltime on Friday evening with the scores at 13-13.
She then landed a close-range penalty at the end of the second five-minute extra-time period.
“Since the age of probably five or six I’ve been practising that moment in my back yard and at football fields down on the south coast, so it finally paid off,” Hewson said.
“It’s definitely one of the toughest matches I’ve ever played and I’ve played some international matches as well.
“We knew it was going to be like that but, the belief in our team, we knew we’d get over the line eventually.”
Queensland five-eighth Zahara Te Mara had kicked a penalty goal at the end of regulation time to force the game into extra time.
NSW dominated the first half of extra time but Queensland’s defence held firm as they withstood several phases of play close to their line.
Queensland scored two tries to one, with both of the visitors’ five-pointers coming from long-distance runs after pouncing on a NSW error.
It was a fiercely contested game befitting a final and featured some massive defensive plays
NSW completed an unbeaten five-match campaign but Queensland forced the home team to dig deep.
Disappointment for Queensland was mixed with pride at their involvement in such a gripping and momentous contest.
“To have been a part of such an iconic match which will go down in history, that’s something really special for our girls who perhaps don’t know the level of what they’ve done just yet,” Queensland captain Kirby Sefo said.
“But in years to come it will be something they will be really proud of.”
Hewson posted the first points of the match with a close-range penalty in the 12th minute.
Queensland flanker and player of the match Lavinia Gould pulled off an intercept try to give the visitors a 5-3 lead
Hewson booted a second penalty but missed a third on the stoke of halftime, which came with the home team holding a 6-5 lead.
Centre Naraeta Marsters grabbed the lead back for Queensland when NSW lost the ball and she fended off Hewson in an unstoppable charge to the line.
Gould was sin-binned for offside in the 63rd minute and, within three minutes, NSW replacement prop Melissa Fatu crashed over.
Hewson converted to give NSW a 13-10 advantage.