Jillaroos pip Kiwi Ferns in women's league thriller

Isabelle Kelly has fired the Australian Jillaroos to a thrilling 26-24 win over New Zealand in their women's rugby league Test.

Kiwi Ferns player Krystal Rota tackled by Jilaroos player Heather Ballinger.
Jillaroos v Kiwi Ferns, women's international rugby league, New Zealand v Australia, GIO Stadium, Canberra, Australia. 5 May 2017, Copyright Image: Paul Seiser /
Kiwi Ferns player Krystal Rota tackled by Jilaroos player Heather Ballinger. Source: Photosport

The superstar centre produced two pieces of brilliance this afternoon, including the 75th-minute match winner to get the world champions home against an injury-hit and gallant Kiwi Ferns at Auckland's Mt Smart Stadium.

Despite losing halfback Kimiora Nati and co-captain Laura Mariu either side of halftime, the New Zealanders refused to yield, pushing the Australians all the way in a see-sawing second-half.

The Jillaroos burst out of the blocks to be up 12-0 after 12 minutes with Ali Brigginshaw setting up Julia Robinson before doing it all herself.

The Kiwi Ferns were often their own worst enemies but managed to get on the board before the break when Raecene McGregor lofted the ball out to Langi Veainu.

Nati was helped off just before halftime with what appeared to be a serious knee problem however five-eighth McGregor stepped up to keep her side in the game.

The Australians also lost back-rower Kezie Apps to a knee problem.

But just when the Kiwi Ferns looked down and out, they crossed through Aieshaleigh Smalley and Veainu in the space of three minutes to take a 14-12 lead.

The Jillaroos hit straight back through Tazmin Gray however when a rampaging Maitua Feterija managed to get it down in the corner, the scores were locked at 18-18 to set up a grandstand finish.

Kelly then broke the game open when she ran through Nita Maynard to race 70 metres to score however, importantly, Chelsea Baker missed the conversion.

After Brigginshaw dropped the ball from the kickoff, it put the Jillaroos under pressure and Amber Kani produced some late footwork at the line to go in between the posts to go in front 24-22.

But as the New Zealanders looked like they might steal it, the Jillaroos spread it right and Kelly crossed with five minutes remaining to hoist the trans-Tasman Trophy.

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