Leichhardt Oval has proven again that the venerable old ground is a favoured venue for the Newtown Jets, with the defending premiers rebounding from a 26-12 deficit against Wests Tigers to win by 30-26.


The joint venture team had led 20-6 at half-time and looked to be in control against the erratic and undisciplined Jets. Newtowns late victory surge on Saturday was inspired by Jets identities from last years Grand Final such as Saulala Houma, Isaac Liu and Nafe Seluini.


The Jets scored in the games second minute through winger Paul Rokolati pouncing on a well-flighted grubber kick into the Wests Tigers in-goal zone by halfback Ryley Jacks. Wests Tigers replied in the ninth minute when their gigantic winger Taqele Naiyaravoro finished off an efficiently-constructed backline movement. Wests Tigers added two further tries through bouncing grubber kicks that Jets players failed to clean up in their own in-goal area. The home team added to their eventual half-time lead of 20-6 through a remarkable 100 metres try-scoring effort in the last minute of the first half, involving the behemothic Naiyaravoro and impressive young halfback Luke Brooks.


Newtown coach Greg Matterson impressed upon his team at the half-time break that they were trailing through their own lack of discipline and impetuous decisions, and that they could get back into the contest through the collective power of their forward pack. This was proven immediately from the resumption of play as fullback Henare wells went desperately close to scoring, and then front-rower Saulala Houma powered his way over in the third minute. All seemed lost when Wests Tigers gained possession from a midfield error and added a converted try seven minutes into the second half to lead 26-12.


The game took on a different outlook as Newtowns forwards started to make good metres up the middle through Ray Moujalli, Kane Evans, Isaac Liu and Saulala Houma. Jets hooker Nafe Seluini, the scourge of Balmain in last years Grand Final, repeatedly made ground with his dashes from dummy-half. The redoubtable Houma claimed his second try (and his eighth for the season) in the 16th minute, with Paul Rokolatis sideline conversion putting Newtown back in the game at 26-18 in arrears. The clock started to work against Newtown as the minutes ran down, and as Wests Tigers made valuable metres from an attempted 40/20 that was knocked over the sideline. With only nine minutes left prop Isaac Liu ploughed through several defenders to score next to the posts, but Rokolatis conversion attempt strayed wide. Still trailing by four points, the Jets launched a high-speed attack and centre Michael Oldfield displayed speed and poise as he swerved his way to post the points-equalising try. Rokolati made no mistake with the conversion for Newtown to lead 28-26, but the Jets had to survive a desperation West Tigers attacking move that came to within five metres of the Newtown try-line. Rokolati slotted over a penalty goal in the last minute of play for Newtowns 30-26 victory.


Coach Matterson was more than willing to take the competition points, but said there had been too many errors made and wrong options taken. For many of Newtowns younger players this season has been a trial by fire and they need to continue to learn from their experiences in senior football. The coaching staff lauded the fine contributions made by forwards Moujalli, Houma, Evans and Seluini, the outstanding individual try by Oldfield and the continued improvement shown by Wells.


The Newtown Jets take on the second-placed North Sydney at North Sydney Oval next Saturday (25th May) at 3.00pm, with this 11th round VB NSW Cup match between two of Rugby Leagues oldest rivals also doubling as the deciding game in the 2013 Frank Hyde Shield series.