The ACT Schoolboys won't defend their title but they can still get on the podium when they play Queensland I for third spot at the national championships in Sydney on Saturday.
The ACT won their first national title since 1988 at the tournament last year and the reigning champions clinched two of their three group games to finish second behind NSW I.
They trounced Queensland II on the opening day before falling to NSW I in game two, but they held on for a gutsy 14-11 win over Victoria on Thursday.
Victoria were peppering the line at the death but the ACT defended their hearts out to seal the result.
"I have never seen a defensive effort by a schoolboy team like that," ACT coach Dan Hawke said.