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Jets get back into full business mode.
The Newtown Jets reclaimed the Trevor Ryan-Neil Pringle Shield in beating Balmain 30-10 at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday afternoon. Despite the undoubted handicap of coming off an extended break, with their previous competition match having been on the 25th June, the Jets made sure of the two competition points to maintain their place in the NSW Cup top four.
The Jets were certainly a bit rusty in the opening twenty minutes and the Tigers took full advantage of Newtown's lack of recent match play, dominating possession and posting tries in the 5th and 16th minutes to lead 10-0. The Newtown players didn't get rattled and methodically fought their way back into the game. Halfback and former Balmain Tiger Blake Lazarus scored twice for the Jets in the 25th and 35th minutes with neither try being converted. The Tigers, playing in front of a big roll-up of former Balmain players attending their annual club reunion, went in with a 10-8 lead at the half-time break.
In contrast to the flow of play in the first quarter when the Tigers had a wealth of possession and recorded a near-flawless completion rate, the Jets took control of the game in the third quarter. It was a good overall team effort from the Jets, with the big Newtown forwards relishing the fierce physical exchanges with their inner-western neighbours. The whole Newtown team lifted in intensity in this period of the game and there were several fiery confrontations that kept referee Sutton busy maintaining good order. The presence of several ex-Balmain players in the Newtown team ranks certainly added to the rigour of this local derby.
Former Roosters Toyota Cup prop Isaac Maliota, whose 2011 season has been disrupted through injury, powered over under the posts five minutes into the second half. Jets hooker Scott Jones scored from dummy-half eight minutes later and then suffered what appeared to be a serious neck injury midway through the second half. He was taken to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital after the match but was allowed to go home later that evening. Newtown centre Francis Vaiotu and front-rower and captain Khalid Deeb added further tries as the Jets increased their lead to 30-10, the eventual full-time score.
Newtown's coach Greg Matterson and his staff were well pleased with this solid win, given the problems associated with preparing a team after an extended break since the previous match. Matterson commented on his team's ability to recover from what had been a lacklustre start to the game when the Tigers had all the ball and were calling the shots. The coaching staff praised all the Newtown forwards for their work-rate and aggression, giving special mention to Ahmad Ellaz, Kurt Kara, Scott Jones and Francis Tuigamala. The backs all contributed to the Jets second half resurgence with halfback Blake Lazarus being mentioned in dispatches.
This win was a satisfactory return to live game action after a three-week layoff and the Jets now face a very demanding run home to the finals series. Newtown meets the second-placed Auckland Vulcans at Henson Park next Saturday, 23rd July, with this 20th round NSW Cup match kicking off at 3.00pm. The Vulcans had a runaway win against Newtown at Mt Smart Stadium back in early April, and Saturday's rematch will be a stern test indeed for the fourth-placed Jets.