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The Newtown Jets maintained their unbeaten record in VB Premier League games at Henson Park this season, but had to use their ultimate ?get out of jail card? with a thrilling last minute 16-12 win over Cronulla-Sutherland on Saturday. The Jets had trailed 12-0 with fifteen minutes remaining but pulled back to 12-all with only five minutes left to play. Newtown lock Mitch Aubusson plunged over for the match-winning try in the last thirty seconds to seize an amazing comeback victory for the Jets.
Saturday?s match was played in cold, wet conditions, complete with a huge midfield mud patch and blazing floodlights to round off the bleak wintry setting. The Sharks gave the better wet weather display for most of the game. They employed a better directed kicking game, used their big pack to good advantage and trapped Newtown ball-carriers in their own in-goal zone on several occasions. Cronulla seemingly had answers for every challenge mounted by the Jets and looked to be set to inflict Newtown?s first defeat at home this season.
Not surprisingly tempers eventually frayed in the slippery, gruelling conditions and an old-fashioned all-in melee ensued about eighteen minutes from fulltime. The fracas seemed to spark a Jets revival, along with driving charges by their big forwards Glenn Hall, Charles Tonga and Mickey Paea. Newtown winger Aaron Lai scored in the southern left-hand corner with fourteen minutes to play, and his try was improved on with a high pressure sideline conversion from halfback Jamie Soward. Opposite winger Troy Malcolm claimed the Jets? second try five minutes from time with the ice-cool Soward converting from wide out once again to tie the scores up at 12-all.
Both teams then exchanged long distance field goal attempts and in virtually the last play of the day, another field goal attempt by Soward was baulked by onrushing Sharks defenders; the ball was quickly shifted to the right hand side, with the impressive Aubusson crashing over in the corner amidst wild jubilation from Newtown supporters.
Jets utility player John Doyle was Newtown?s standout performer with his clever ball distribution, darting dummy-half runs, crunching defence and fearless, inspiring leadership. Newtown fans can count themselves blessed to see a player of this exceptional calibre wearing their team?s colours. Hall, Tonga, Mickey Paea and Aubusson were among the best Newtown forwards while centre Lelea Paea and fullback Aidan Kirk were the best of the backs.
The Newtown Jim Beam Cup team turned on their best first half performance of the season as they ran up a match-winning 32-0 half-time lead over The Entrance. The Jets played right to their game plan with accurate kicking, a high completion rate and sustained pressure on their opponents in their own quarter. While the second half was a more even contest, the Jets could be well pleased with the final 44-18 result in their favour.
The young Jets now have the opportunity to consolidate and aim for the best possible placing in the semi-finals. Saturday?s first half can be used as a performance benchmark for the remaining competition games and there are no more byes to disrupt the team?s momentum. The Jets best forwards on Saturday were Ritchie Parker and Matt Habojan, along with good backline contributions from Luke Millwood, Toufic Nicolas and Will Ingram. The two home game wins made it a great occasion for generous match-day sponsor Anthony Tuite from the Royal Exchange Hotel in Marrickville.
The Parkes Spacemen suffered a 32-12 defeat on Sunday at the hands of unbeaten competition leaders the Wellington Cowboys and are now precariously placed in the battle for the fifth place on the Group 11 competition table.
Both Newtown Jets teams play away for the next two weekends. In the Jim Beam Cup, Newtown plays second-placed Wentworthville at Ringrose Park on Sunday (July 23rd) at 3.00pm. In the VB Premier League, Newtown ventures to Telstra Stadium to take on the Bulldogs on Saturday (July 22nd) at 3.30pm. This match is the main curtain-raiser to the Bulldogs-Roosters NRL match at Telstra at 5.30pm.
Glenn Hall, Newtown Jets front-rower, rips through the Sharks defence on Saturday.
Photo courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography.