The Cronulla Sharks remain unbeaten in the 2013 VB NSW Cup after defeating a determined Newtown Jets team 32-24 at Sharks Stadium on Saturday afternoon. This match was televised live nationwide on Fox Sports and was a good advertisement for the competition. Newtown led 18-10 at halftime, trailed 20-18 early in the second half, and then regained the lead by 24-20 with twenty minutes to play. The experience and sound teamwork of the Cronulla-Melbourne Storm joint venture team saw the Sharks come home strongly in the final quarter.


Newtown opened the scoring through strongman prop Saulala Houma in the 13th minute, but the consortium team took full advantage of a Jets possession turnover and replied with a converted try in the 20th minute. Newtown turned on some precision ball play and textbook backing up to post tries in quick succession by halfback Ryley Jacks and second rower Aidan Guerra. Forwards Tinirau Arona and Lama Tasi were both involved in Jacks' try, while backs Ivan Penehe and Paul Rokolati played significant roles in Guerra's try. The Sharks' try just prior to halftime came on the back of the Jets conceding a penalty deep in their own territory.


The Sharks scored early in the second half after benefiting from a midfield turnover by the Jets and from the exceptional pace of the Cronulla winger Alipate Ratini, who would not be out of place in the field of a Stawell Easter Gift Final. The Sharks-Storm combination dominated possession early in the third quarter, with the Jets having only one set with the ball in the first ten minutes. The Sharks scored again in the eighth minute to take a 20-18 lead, but Newtown regained the lead by 24-20 through a remarkably determined second try to back-rower Aidan Guerra. The experience of Cronulla players in key positions made a vital difference in the game's fourth quarter and as Newtown's deficit in possession began to take its toll in fatigue and missed tackles. The Sharks went on to score a further two tries to ensure their ongoing tenure at the top of the VB NSW Cup premiership table.


The Jets coaching staff rated Aidan Guerra, Lama Tasi and Tinirau Arona as being Newtown's best forwards and noted the ongoing good form of fullback Chris Taripo. Last Saturday was an example of a must-win game for the Jets up against well-credentialed opponents. The Jets coaching staff observed that there were players who needed "to step up a gear when their team is under the pump in the critical stages of a match". The Sharks made better use in the second half of the strong north-easterly breeze and they found weaknesses in Newtown's defence out wide. As the coaching staff put it bluntly, "the Jets were badly burned by the first ten minutes of the second half and it took a lot of energy out of the boys".


This year's NSW Cup is proving to be relentless in its intensity, and the Jets travel across the Harbour on Saturday (6th April) to take on the much-improved Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles. This round five fixture at Brookvale Oval is timed to kick off at 3.00pm and will be game-cast live on SteeleSports.com.au