A sideline conversion from birthday boy Nick Doberer provided a dramatic end to the first Latino Origin game of 2018, as Queensland snuck home 28-26 at Corrimal, near Wollongong.
Backrower Doberer (Chilean heritage) slotted the pressure kick with six minutes left on the clock, despite heckling from local fans.
It capped a courageous come-from-behind effort, after Queensland trailed 6-22 early in the second half.
The intensity of the match was a positive sign for Latin American Rugby League, heading into the Emerging Nations World Championship in September and October of this year.
Indeed, both sides fielded stronger teams than they did in 2017 when New South Wales won 32-8 in Brisbane.
Fullback Thomas Garrido (Chile) and half Gabriel Papa (Argentina/Uruguay) were a constant threat throughout the game and amassed 22 of New South Wales’ 26 points.
They laid the foundations for the Cucarachas’ early dominance, which was built around quick-play-the-balls and seizing any gaps with blistering footwork.
It was telling that both were playing injured late in the game when Queensland staged its defiant comeback.
Key five-eighth James Horvat (Chile) and big men Sean Day (Peru) and Eduardo Wegener (Chile) were also not playing at full fitness, and it undoubtedly hampered their input.
Queensland’s inspirational effort was not without its own challenges however.
Hooker Seb Martinez (Colombia) – the Best and Fairest winner for Latin American Rugby League in 2017 – missed almost 30 minutes of the game with a calf injury.
His replacement Jonathan Espinoza was a prime mover in getting his side back on track however, showing his conversion from a backrower to dummy-half is paying dividends.
Espinoza built momentum around the ruck, while Queensland’s defensive intensity and ball security also lifted.
A premeditated intercept by Guyanese speedster Claude Jackson, who moved in from his usual wing position, was perhaps the turning point of the game.
Jackson snatched the ball as it was spread wide from a scrum and waltzed 15m to put the northerners back in the contest.
From there Queensland ran in tries to former Super League player Matt Gardner (Brazil) and utility Oscar Mendoza (El Salvador), as they levelled up at 22-all with three tries in nine minutes.
The deadlock lasted for a significant period in the second stanza, before New South Wales again snatched back the ascendancy with yet another runaway try to star fullback Garrido.
Even as ex Toronto Wolfpack squad member Andrew Zuluaga dotted over for the try to tie things up 26-all in the 74th minute, the suspicion was it was not going to be the last time the tryline was breached.
Yet following the four-pointer by ‘The Zulu’ and Doberer adding the two from out wide, Queensland knuckled down in defence, clinging on to their lead despite some untimely dropped ball.
On the very last play of the game New South Wales were a handful of metres from scoring when a cut-out ball to the winger failed to find its target and the fulltime siren sounded.
For gamewinner Doberer it was his second representative game in a row when he marked a milestone in impressive fashion.
Last October he was man of the match for Chile as they drew against Thailand in a Test match.
This year there will be two Latino Origin matches to aide selection for the Emerging Nations World Championship.
Game Two is to be played in Noosa on Saturday, June 9.
QLD LATINO 28 (Seb Martinez, Claude Jackson, Matt Gardner, Oscar Mendoza, Andrew Zuluaga tries; Seb Martinez 2, Nick Doberer 2 goals) beat NSW LATINO 26 (Thomas Garrido 3, Gabriel Papa, Alvaro Alarcon tries; Gabriel Papa 3 goals) at Ziems Park, Corrimal. Referee: Ray Teuma. Touch Judges: Andrew Riolo, Michael Inness.
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The 100% volunteer-run Latin American Rugby League has been supported primarily by Guzman y Gomez Mexican Taquerias, Shield Security Pty Ltd, Tattoo Tears, Cast Graphics, IntaGas Services, LS Tax & Accounting Services, Retro-Com Digital TV Specialists, Colombianos en Brisbane, GMA Tourism, EMSA Education and Migration Services Australia, Lichtnauer and Associates Accountants, The Edge Home Loans, Oaky North Lodge CFMEU, ACTIVE Rehabilitation Physiotherapy, Radio Austral and Fighting For Fitness Gym.
GYG LATINO ORIGIN
Saturday, March 3
Corrimal, New South Wales
NSW CUCARACHAS SQUAD
Thomas Garrido (Chile)
Jose Nitor Alvear (Chile)
Frank Altamirano (Peru)
Patrick Caamano (Chile)
Alvaro Alarcon (El Salvador)
James Horvat (Chile)
Gabriel Papa (Uruguay/Argentina)
Jye Sommers (Peru)
Eduardo Wengener (Chile)
Paco Godinez (El Salvador)
Sean Day (Peru)
Brandon Tobar (Chile)
Simon De Araujo (Chile)
Fredy Arteaga (El Salvador)
Eugene Araya (Chile)
Luis Fhon (Peru)
Jose Martinez (El Salvador)
Jon Munoz (Chile)
William Gomez (Ecuador)
Josh Guzman (El Salvador)
Coach: Andrew Charles
Manager: Col Smithers / Daniel Godinez
Trainer: Juan Carlos Carrion
1. Anthony Maatouk (El Salvador)
2. Milton Mosquera (Colombia)
3. Oscar Mendoza (El Salvador)
4. Carlos Reyes Kiwikiwi (El Salvador)
5. Claude Jackson (Guyana)
6. Brad Millar (Chile)
7. Trent Millar (Chile)
8. Andrew Zuluaga (Colombia)
9. Iziah Esera Catrileo (Chile)
10. Rafael Mendoza (El Salvador)
11. Matt Gardner (Brazil)
12. Nick Doberer (Chile)
13. Sebastian Martinez (Colombia)
14. Daniel Mejia (Colombia)
15. Sebastian Schubert Arriaza (El Salvador)
16. Jonathan Espinoza (Chile/Nicaragua)
17. Leonel Esera Catrileo (Chile)
18. Alejandro Cruz (Colombia)
19. Juan David Espinal (Colombia)
20. Brandon Rodriguez (El Salvador)
Coach: Brad Millar
Manager: Robert Burgin
Trainer: Sebastian Maya Jimenez