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The Newtown Jets and Balmain Tigers proved that traditional local derbies are still crowd-pleasers when they turned on a real belter in their VB Premier League clash at Henson Park on Easter Saturday. Newtown hung on for a thrilling 32-28 win after having trailed the Tigers by 28-12 five minutes into the second half. The Jets have retained the Trevor Ryan-Neil Pringle shield with this win, as the two 1908 foundation clubs aren?t drawn to meet each other again for the rest of the 2006 VB Premier League competition.
Newtown?s ragged first half looked certain to ensure that the Tigers would hold onto their undefeated status leading into this game. Balmain took full advantage of the Jets repeated errors and penalties, and Newtown looked to be gone for all money after a soft try to the Tigers only five minutes into the second half. Newtown?s stirring fightback, when the Jets laid on twenty unanswered points and defended their narrow lead with fierce desperation in the last fifteen minutes of the match, engrossed the big crowd and did wonders for this young Newtown side?s self belief.
The Paea brothers, Lelea and Mickey, had exceptional games. Lelea scored two tries, the second of which brought the house down, and he frequently troubled the Balmain defence. Mickey led the Newtown forwards by his courageous example and his superbly-timed pass put lock Setaimata Sa in for a critical second half try. Young front-rower Danny Williams worked overtime and tore into his Balmain opponents with reckless enthusiasm. Jets half-back Mitchell Pearce, son of Balmain legend Wayne Pearce, made an impressive debut in the Newtown colours and he combined well with Josh Lewis in the halves.
Newtown overcame a debilitating coach journey through heavy holiday traffic to the Central Coast on Friday, in handing out a 38-10 pounding to home team Erina in a first round Jim Beam Cup encounter. Despite their less than ideal pre-game preparation and the opposition?s rough-house tactics, the Jets tore away to a 26-4 half-time lead and maintained their dominance in the second half. The Jets displayed good ball control, well executed attacking play and disciplined defence in what was an excellent all-round team effort. Newtown?s best were second-rower Khalib Deeb, lock Darren Lang and five-eighth Toufic Nicolas.
The Newtown Jets travel away this Friday evening (April 21st) to the WIN Stadium, Wollongong when they take on the St. George-Illawarra Dragons. This VB Premier League match is timed to start at 7.30pm. Newtown has a second round bye in the Jim Beam Cup competition.
Newtown Jets front-rower Danny Williams dishes out a ?don?t argue? fend to a Balmain Tigers opponent in Saturday?s match at Henson Park.
Photo courtesy of Mike Biboudis.