Jets dig deep for hard-fought win

Both teams went into last Saturdays 18th round VB NSW Cup match at Henson Park at less than full strength, but it was the Newtown Jets who came away with the two hard-won competition points.


The Jets defeated the second-placed Newcastle Knights 26-14 after setting up a commanding 22-6 lead by half-time. Newtown had to draw on injured players and others with relatively little NSW Cup game time this season, and the team can look back on this win with justified pride.


Former Knight Josh Ailaomai scored Newtowns first try in the 10th minute after the Jets had forced two goal-line drop-outs on the visitors. The Knights responded in the 20th minute with a try to former Test and State of Origin centre Timana Tahu, who looked dangerous every time he was in possession. The Jets dominated the games second quarter and scored three more tries before half-time. Hooker Nafe Seluini sent Henare Wells in for his 13th try of the season, and he was also involved in a try by winger Paul Rokolati in the left-side southern corner. Seluini scored himself when he backed up the flying Wells, who had in turn been set free by a deft midfield off-load from big Saulala Houma. It was an impressive and productive twenty minutes for the Jets and sent them into the break with a 22-6 lead.


Despite supplying four players to the NSW Cup representative team, the Knights still had enough quality personnel to hit back hard in the second half. The Novocastrians dominated the games third quarter and stretched Newtowns defensive capability to the limit. The Knights scored an unconverted try to trail by 22-10 but Jets halves Ben Jones and Ryley Jacks combined well for Jacks to score from a well-controlled grubber kick by Jones. Tahu kept his team in the game through his second try with fifteen minutes left to play. There was no further scoring by either side and while the Jets made a few hair-raising errors and have yet to master the ability to close a game out effectively, they held on to win by 26-14.


For the Jets, this was a game where every player lifted their performance and made up for players missing through injury, regular team captain Tinirau Arona being on representative team duty and with not as many Roosters players being available for selection. Veteran forward Khalid Deeb insisted on being available and played despite not being fully fit, while backs Ivan Penehe and Pierce Sapsford who have played very little NSW Cup rugby league this season were more than willing to step up to help the team. Acting captain Kurt Kara was outstanding as both hooker and lock and played the full eighty minutes. All the Jets forwards contributed and mixed it up with the very physical Newcastle pack. Nafe Seluinis class in attack was crucial in the second quarter when the Jets set up a substantial lead. Halves Ben Jones and Ryley Jacks worked together well and look to be forming an effective combination at the right time of the season.


The 5th placed Newtown Jets are back again at Henson Park next Saturday, 20th July, when they will take on the physically-imposing and 6th placed Auckland Vulcans at 3.00pm. The VB NSW Cup curtain-raiser at 1.00pm on Saturday features the competition leaders Cronulla Sharks in an all-southern local derby with the men in scarlet, the Illawarra Cutters.