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Newtown's manpower reserves were stretched to the limit at Henson Park last Saturday, when the Jets defeated Cronulla-Sutherland 24-18 in the 26th and final competition round of the 2010 NSW Cup. Newtown was assured of finishing in at least third place on the premiership table but needed to win this game if either Canterbury-Bankstown or Balmain had faltered in their own final competition matches.
A combination of injuries and promotions into the Roosters NRL squad had led to several changes in Newtown's ranks and the Sharks, already assured of a place in the final eight, were clearly determined to deny the Jets a victory on their annual club reunion day. Cronulla weathered early pressure from the Jets and scored first midway through the first half. The Sharks extended their lead to 8-0 at the 30th minute mark but the Jets responded just prior to half-time through fullback Steve Naughton after good lead-up work by Tom Symonds.
Newtown scored again early in the second half after Symonds and second-rower Jason Wells had been constructively involved. Front-rower Ray Moujalli scored soon afterwards with Tu'u Maori's conversion giving the Jets a 16-8 lead. The Sharks exploited some fragile Newtown defence and narrowed the gap to 16-14. Jets hooker and former Shark Nick Doig burrowed over from dummy-half with 18 minutes left to play. The Shire boys took full advantage of a Newtown midfield penalty and scored in the following set, narrowing the margin to only 22-18 with 12 minutes remaining. The Jets survived several anxious moments and added a penalty goal for the final scoreline of 24-18.
Newtown's coach Greg Matterson was less than enthralled with his team's scrappy win, but he admitted that the much-changed lineup had done just enough to claim the two points and had come through relatively free of injuries. Matterson anticipated that there would be several players returning to the Newtown ranks for the semi-final series.
Tom Symonds, who had played in the back-row and at five-eighth on Saturday, was Newtown's man of the match, while Tinirau Arona, James Koloamatangi, Jason Baitieri and Keith Peters had been the best of the forwards. Fullback Steve Naughton, formerly with the Canberra Raiders, has had no luck at all with injuries this year but he turned on a brave and capable display on Saturday.
The Newtown Jets are at Henson Park for the last time in 2010 next Saturday (11th September), when they meet Wentworthville in a NSW Cup Qualifying Final kicking off at 3.00pm.
NSWRL NSW Cup
Saturday, 4th September 2010
Newtown v Cronulla-Sutherland
Steve Naughton 2, Ray Moujalli, Nick Doig tries;
Tu'u Maori 4 goals
Albert Kelly, Hayden Peacock, Tyler Jarden tries;
Scott Porter 3 goals.
Cronulla-Sutherland led 8-6.
Played at: Henson Park.
Newtown's team was:
5 - Steve Naughton
2 - Richard Kambo, 22 - Sonny Tuigamala
3 - Troy Savage, 16 - Tu'u Maori
4 - Chris Tuatara-Morrison, 7 - Liam Foran
13 - Jason Baitieri (Capt.)
11 - Brad Barrett, 20 - Tom Symonds
8 - Ryan Verlinden, 14 - Tinirau Arona
9 - Keith Peters.
10 - Ray Moujalli
15 - Jason Wells
17 - James Koloamatangi
19 - Nick Doig.