Jets fail to reel in Sharks in tough second half

The Newtown Jets have now won three games and lost three in the 2011 NSW Cup competition, following their 20-10 loss to Cronulla-Sutherland at Henson Park last Saturday. This match marked the 75th anniversary of the Newtown club's first Rugby League game at Henson Park back in 1936, and the old ground took on somewhat of a wintry North of England ambience on Saturday afternoon with the floodlights switched on at the kick-off, heavy rain in the second half and a cold southerly breeze blowing throughout the match.

The Sharks dominated the rucks in the first half and although Newtown scored the first try of the game, Cronulla's quick play the balls, precise kicking game and smart ball-work repeatedly caught out Newtown's right-edge defence. The Sharks put on three tries to lead 14-4 after 25 minutes and they maintained that margin into the half-time break. Injuries during the first forty minutes to Newtown forwards Aidan Guerra and the in-form Chris Enahoro meant that the Jets were down to two men on the bench for the entire second half.

Jets coach Greg Matterson demanded a huge improvement from his players in the second half, and turned on a fiery halftime dressing-down in the time-honoured tradition of many former Newtown coaches in the preceding 75 years. Matterson said after the game that he was pleased with the manner in which the team had responded to his challenge, even though they were down on numbers and were running into a stiff breeze with the rain pelting horizontally into their faces in the last quarter. The Jets certainly lifted their game and when front-rower Lama Tasi crashed over next to the goalposts at the Sydenham Road end, it seemed that the momentum of the game had swung Newtown's way. As the rain intensified, Newtown's errors and lack of patience and discipline at crucial moments enabled the Sharks to regroup. Cronulla's try from a kick to the corner in the 25th minute and subsequent sideline conversion stretched the Shire boys' lead out to 20-10, which was always going to be a big ask to overhaul in the playing conditions.

Newtown's indifferent first half proved costly, given that the Jets had the advantage of the strong breeze. The Sharks performed all the essentials faster and with greater effect in that first session and withstood Newtown's second half resurgence. The Jets coaching staff nominated Lama Tasi, Ryan Verlinden and Khalid Deeb as Newtown's best forwards and Francis Vaiotu and Steve Naughton as the best of the backline. Coach Matterson praised his players for their second half improvement and said that they would fight their way out of this slump with hard graft and team commitment.

Next Saturday (23rd April) sees one of the premium fixtures in the NSW Cup - an inner-city local derby between two of Rugby League's 1908 foundation clubs, Newtown and Balmain. The Jets confront the Tigers at Henson Park at 3.00pm on Saturday, with this match being the first leg of the 2011 Trevor Ryan-Neil Pringle Shield series.

NSWRL NSW Cup - 6th Round
Saturday, 16th April 2011
Henson Park
Newtown v Cronulla-Sutherland
Kick-off time was 3.00pm.

Cronulla-Sutherland 20:
Sisa Waqa 2, Tu'u Maori, Nathan Stapleton tries;
Nathan Stapleton 2 goals
Newtown 10:
Aidan Guerra, Lama Tasi tries;
Mark Kheirallah goal.

Cronulla-Sutherland led 14-4.

Referee: Grant Atkins
Touch Judges: Lawrence McDonnell, Jimmy Oliveira

Weather: Cold, heavy rain, windy
Playing surface: Excellent.

This match was played at Henson Park.

Newtown's team was:
1 - Steve Naughton
18 - Tom Kerr, 5 - Rhys Pritchard
3 - Kane Linnett, 2 - Francis Vaiotu
6 - Johnathon Ford, 7 - Mark Kheirallah
13 - Tinirau Arona
11 - Aidan Guerra, 12 - Brad Barrett
8 - Lam Tasi, 10 - Khalid Deeb (Capt.)
9 - Kurt Kara.
14 - Willie Mataka, 15 - Scott Jones
17 - Chris Enahoro, 21 - Ryan Verlinden
22 - Brett Lane.