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In one of the most enthralling matches played at Henson Park since Newtown entered the NSWRL VB Premier League (formerly known as the First Division), the Sydney Airport Jets defeated competition leaders Parramatta by 22-16 on Saturday, after leading by 6-4 at half-time.
This was a genuinely absorbing and gruelling contest, played with all the intensity of an elimination semi-final. It was a tough forward battle for much of the game, with the Jets only just gaining the decisive edge. The last fifteen minutes of the match were crammed with critical incidents during which Newtown narrowly missed a try-scoring chance that could have sealed the result, followed by two tries to the Eels with one converted, locking the scores up at 16-all. Then came a succession of desperate but unsuccessful field goal attempts by both teams and finally, the ultimate grandstand finish in the last thirty seconds of play ? an incredible 25-metres surge along the side-line by 120kg Jets second rower Clifford Manua, who crashed over for the winning try in the left-hand southern corner carrying four Parramatta defenders with him.
Newtown coach Colin Murphy said that the match was a great test of his team?s character in what had been a war of attrition with a well-drilled and competent opposition. It was an all-round solid performance by the Jets and a real old fashioned showdown between two determined sets of forwards.
Newtown front-rower James Stosic had an exceptional game and in a pack where everyone contributed, he received best support from David Thompson, Kevin Kingston and Clifford Manua. Jon Green provided important impact from the bench. Vince Mellars and Beau Scott were two of Newtown?s best backs, along with the improving Russell Aitken. Nathan Merritt scored two more tries and kicked three goals (including a beauty from the sideline to convert Manua?s match-winning try), taking his season?s points tally to 134.
The Sydney Airport Jets had to graft hard for their win against Woy Woy in the Jim Beam Cup match played on the Central Coast on Saturday night. Newtown won this match by 40-20 and scored 8 tries to 3, but made heavy weather of the game in the first half. The Jets turned over a lot of ball and had to defend fiercely for extended periods against an enthusiastic opposition. The score was 14-all early in the second half, but Newtown gained control in the game?s latter stages.
Newtown was best served in the forwards by the reliable Tommy Gemmell, David Buckley, Dave Vial and Kiel Roberts. In the backline, Danny Morris was always dangerous in possession, and John Sinisa and Jardine Bobongie also played well.
In Group 11, the Parkes Spacemen left their previous good form at home in going down by 26-22 in their away game to the Narromine Jets. The Newtown Jetettes made an excellent impression in their opening competition match against the Canley Vale Kookas at Henson Park on Saturday. Although beaten by 24-8, the girls showed that they have plenty to look forward to in future games, and they received a great round of applause from the crowd in appreciation of their first-up effort.
Newtown has the bye in the VB Premier League this weekend. In the Jim Beam Cup, the Jets play at home for the first time in several weeks when they take on Erina at Henson Park on Saturday (4th June), with this match due to start at 3.00pm.
photo courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography.