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The Newtown Jets and Melbourne Storm provided a display at Henson Park on Saturday that was a superb advertisement for the second-tier level of Rugby League football. Newtown won 24-10 after leading 12-0 at half-time, and had to survive a determined fightback by the Storm in the second half. The Jets pulled clear with two late tries, including one of the best individual tries seen at Henson Park in many years.
Both teams gave everything in a match that featured creative attacking play, full-blooded defence, ferocious physical confrontations and some brilliant individual efforts. Newtown led 12-0 at the break through tries to winger Kane Linnett and five-eighth Johnathon Ford, and had to defend grimly for extended periods when the Storm tested their on-line defence. Ford made a magnificent try-saving tackle on the Storm back-rower and former Newtown player Hep Cahill, in a period of play when there several near misses for the boys from Bleak City.
The Storm scored early in the second half to trail 12-4, and much of the second half was an absorbing duel between two well-drilled teams giving nothing away in defence. Melbourne pulled back to within two points of Newtown after scoring in almost freakish circumstances in the 67th minute. Two minutes later Newtown fullback Luke Towers scored an exceptional individual try, carrying the ball from his own twenty-metre line and beating several defenders with sheer speed, guile and changes of pace. Ironically the Storm had been pressing hard on Newtown's line just seconds before Towers gained possession. Melbourne redoubled their efforts to bridge the gap but Johnathon Ford capped a fine game with a well-directed kick into the Storm's in-goal, with the last-minute touch-down being effected by none other than the mercurial Towers.
Jets coach Greg Matterson praised his team's stoic defensive effort and their improved ball control. It was a good all-round team performance against very committed and skilful opponents. He added that the Jets needed to use this match as a benchmark for the tough draw ahead in upcoming weeks. This win puts the Jets into third place on the ladder, in what is a very tightly-packed NSW Cup competition table.
Newtown's hard-working quartet of front-rowers - Khalid Deeb, Martin Kennedy, Mose Masoe and Ryan Verlinden - were the Jets' best forwards on a day where every team member contributed. Hooker Keith Peters, second-rower Brad Takairangi and lock and captain Jason Baitieri also had strong games. Halves Liam Foran and Johnathon Ford worked together well, and Toyota Cup centre BJ Leilua made an impressive debut in senior football. Winger Kane Linnett made a successful return from injury and the other flanker Tu'u Maori kicked three conversions and a penalty goal. Fullback Luke Towers distinguished himself with two tries and a most timely intercept that stymied a try-scoring raid by the Storm.
The Jets travel to the icy north-west next Saturday (29th May) to take on the fourth-placed Windsor Wolves. This match at the Windsor Sports Complex kicks off at 6.00pm.
Newtown Jets 24:
Luke Towers 2, Kane Linnett, Johnathon Ford tries;
Tu'u Maori 3 conversions, 1 penalty goal
Melbourne Storm 10:
Gareth Widdop 1 conversion.
Newtown led 12-0.