Jets hard pressed to retain competition leadership

The Newtown Jets managed to overhaul a very determined Auckland Vulcans team to win last Saturday's 23rd round NSW Cup match by 26-22, after trailing 16-10 at halftime. The match was played in the impressive surrounds of Mt Smart Stadium, the home ground of the New Zealand Warriors. Giant prop Ryan Verlinden scored what proved to be the Jets' winning try in the game's 70th minute.

The Jets had made the journey across the Tasman knowing exactly how committed the Vulcans would be at home. While the Jets were defending their newly-acquired top of the table status, the Vulcans were fighting to regain a place in the competition's top eight.

The Vulcans scored first through a 90 metres intercept try in the tenth minute. Newtown replied by way of a try to centre Chris Tuatara-Morrison, who received a clever inside pass from winger Sonny Tuigamala following crafty lead-up work by front-rower Tinirau Arona. Centre Tu'u Maori converted from the sideline.

The Aucklanders regained the lead in the 25th minute but Newtown drew level again when winger Troy Savage won the race to the ball after Tu'u Maori had directed a well-weighted kick into the left side in-goal zone. The Vulcans had the last word for the first half with a smartly-worked try right on the halftime siren.

Penalties, errors and team discipline proved to be determining factors in the game's second forty minutes. The Vulcans conceded a midfield penalty early in the second half that resulted in Jets winger Sonny Tuigamala scoring a try, with Tu'u Maori then posting his second sideline conversion. Inspired defence by the Jets thwarted an almost certain Vulcans try in the 48th minute, but the home team punished Newtown for a midfield transgression by scoring to retake the lead at 22-16.

Clever play by backrower Jason Wells laid the groundwork for Tuatara-Morrison's second try in the 60th minute, following the sin-binning of a Vulcans' forward. The massively-built Verlinden crashed over with ten minutes remaining to play after the Jets had mounted sustained pressure on the Vulcans line.

Backrower Brad Barrett was rated the man of the match in this hard-fought win, while forwards Tinirau Arona and Ray Moujalli and backs Tu'u Maori and Troy Savage won plaudits from the coaching staff.

The Jets return to Henson Park this Saturday (21st August) after four consecutive wins on the road. Newtown confronts the in-form Windsor Wolves at 3.00pm, and Cronulla-Sutherland and the Shellharbour Dragons provide a NSW Cup double-header when they meet at 1.00pm. There is a special Men of League promotion day at Henson Park this Saturday, with a number of former Newtown Bluebags and Jets greats committed to attending.