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The Newtown Jets held on for a narrow 22-18 win over the St Marys-Penrith Cougars in the VB Premier League match played at the Western Weekender Stadium on Saturday. The Jets had a number of enforced late changes to their original team line-up and then lost hooker and captain Heath L?Estrange through a shoulder injury very early in the game. Newtown had led 10-6 at half-time and had to withstand a determined second half fight-back from the fired-up Cougars.
The Cougars grabbed an early 6-0 lead and dominated field position in the first quarter of the match. Newtown equalised in the 25th minute through a try to winger Aaron Lai which was cleverly constructed by backrower Daniel Dumas and centre Lelea Paea. The Jets took the lead nine minutes before half-time with a Michael Burns try, coming off the back of a scintillating fifty-metre run from fullback Aidan Kirk.
Newtown built on this 10-6 half-time lead with further tries to Grant Millington and Lai early in the second session. Millington?s was the result of his deft one-on-one strip from an unfortunate opponent that any conjuring artist would have been proud of, while Lai was clinically positioned for his second try by the master craftsman Lelea Paea.
The Cougars had the better of the contest in the last twenty minutes of the game when they controlled both possession and territory. They employed a smarter kicking game and made their own luck with a fortuitous run of penalties. The Jets defended well under all this sustained pressure and were still besieged on their own line as the final siren sounded.
Jets fullback Aidan Kirk deservedly won the players? player award and the three points for best and fairest. Hooker Luke Gordon, lock Mitch Aubusson and front-rower Glenn Hall were Newtown?s best forwards while Lelea Paea and Grant Millington were the standouts in the backs.
The Jets completed a tough week in the Jim Beam Cup with two losses to competition leaders the Sydney Bulls in the space of five days. Newtown had lost a deferred match played at Henson Park last Tuesday night by 32-16 and then went down in the return encounter on Saturday by 38-22. In the second match the Jets had trailed 18-0 in the first half and recovered well to take the lead 22-18. Missed opportunities and ?coach killer? errors and wrong options gave the Bulls repeated chances that weren?t declined.
Tireless front-rower Ritchie Parker was the standout performer on Saturday in both defence and attack and deserved better support. Livewire hooker Adam Bennett turned in another non-stop performance.
There?s plenty of night-time Rugby League at Henson Park this week, with the Clovelly Crocodiles under 16?s taking on the touring Warrington Wolves (UK) development squad on Wednesday evening at 6.00pm. The Sydney Women?s Rugby League grand final is on at Henson Park on Friday evening at 7.00pm, when the Newtown Jetettes face off with the Canley Vale Kookas. The Jetettes won an epic preliminary final against the Redfern All Blacks on Saturday by 28-20.
Next Saturday (August 19th) will feature the final competition games double-header at Henson Park for this season, with the Newtown Jets taking on Cabramatta in the Jim Beam Cup curtain-raiser at 1.15pm. In the VB Premier League main game at 3.00pm, competition juggernauts Newtown and Parramatta shape up in the match that may well decide the 2006 minor premiership.
Newtown Jets five-eighth Grant Millington relieves a bemused Cougars opponent of possession in a critical moment in Saturday?s VB Premier League match.
Photo supplied by Gary Sutherland Photography.