The Newtown Jets claimed a confidence-boosting 22-0 win over old rivals the Balmain Tigers, in the 7th round NSW Cup match played at Henson Park on Easter Saturday. Overnight and morning rain might have restricted the size of the crowd for this local derby but nothing restrained the joyous relief in the Jets dressing-room at fulltime.
In addition to taking the two badly-needed competition points, Newtown won the MUA Solidarity Cup for the first time, a trophy competed for by these two Rugby League foundation clubs whenever they meet at Henson Park.
The Jets also unveiled their new signing, the former Wests Tigers, Balmain and Avignon halfback Blake Lazarus, who immediately displayed his credentials to the Henson Park diehards with a kick charge-down in the game's opening skirmishes, and then by scoring a smartly-taken try in the fourth minute of play.
Newtown led 6-0 at the break and coach Greg Matterson impressed upon his players at halftime to maintain their concentration and discipline, to continue to play for field position and to frustrate the Tigers at their own game and force them into rash options and errors.
Newtown's second half was a prime example of what can be gained from an improved and resolute defensive performance and a general improvement in the kicking game. Coach Matterson said after the match that the squad had worked extremely hard on their defensive drills in the preceding week, with the consequent result of holding an opposing team to nil for the first time in two years.
Matterson commended Newtown's backrowers ex-Tiger Willie Mataka, Brad Barrett and Aidan Guerra for their exceptional defensive efforts, but noted that the team still had plenty of room for improvement in their attacking game in the upcoming rounds.
New halfback Blake Lazarus added an element of composure to Newtown's performance and also brought on board a better-targeted and more effective kicking game. The Jets coaching staff nominated skipper Khalid Deeb, hooker Scott Jones, Mataka, Barrett and Guerra as being the best of Newtown's hard-working forwards, and indicated that fullback Mark Kheirallah and winger Steve Naughton were the best of the other backs.
Naughton is having a fine season and is showing his full range of ability after an injury-disrupted 2010. Forwards Mataka and Jones had topped the tackle count figures, with Barrett and five-eighth Johnno Ford not far behind.
The Jets travel across the Harbour for their 8th round NSW Cup match against another long-time rival in Manly-Warringah. This match at the Sea Eagles famed Brookvale Oval fortress gets underway on Saturday, 30th April at 3.00pm.
This match between Newtown and Balmain can be seen on Fox Sports on Wednesday, 27th April at 4.30pm.
NSWRL NSW Cup - Round 7
Saturday, 23rd April 2011
Newtown v Balmain
Blake Lazarus, Ryan Verlinden, Rhys Pritchard, Mark Kheirallah tries;
Mark Kheirallah 3 goals
Half-Time: Newtown led 6-0.
Referee: Matthew Noyen.
Touch Judges: Zbigniew Przeklasa-Adamski, Nathan Smith
Weather: Overcast, cool
Playing Surface: Excellent.
This match was played at Henson Park.
Newtown's team was:
7 - Mark Kheirallah
1 - Steve Naughton, 5 - Rhys Pritchard
3 - Kane Linnett, 4 - Francis Vaiotu
6 - Johnathon Ford, 18 - Blake Lazarus
13 - Willie Mataka
11 - Aidan Guerra, 12 - Brad Barrett
8 - Francis Tuigamala, 10 - Khalid Deeb (Capt.)
9 - Byron Fruean.
14 - Ahmad Ellaz, 26 - Scott Jones
16 - Boyd Strickland, 19 - Brett Lane
21 - Ryan Verlinden.