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The Newtown Jets paid dearly for their high error-rate in Sunday?s opening VB Premier League competition match against neighbours South Sydney at Telstra Stadium. The Jets barely completed more than 50% of their sets of possession in either half, putting enormous pressure on themselves in the unseasonable sauna-like playing conditions. Newtown conceded 22 points inside the first twenty minutes and despite a brave fightback went down by 42-28.
The Rabbitohs dominance of possession in the first half saw them take a 34-16 lead into the break. A resurgent Newtown kept Souths tryless until the final minute of the second half and fought back gamely to trail by 36-28 with seven minutes remaining. Lack of ball control killed off the Jets? hopes of a last gasp victory as Souths sprung a major upset against a team that had shown such promising trials form. Newtown coach Paul Young was quick to assure Jets fans that there are better days ahead for this side, but they needed to put this forgettable display behind them.
Best for the Jets were powerful centre Lelea Paea, who continued his excellent 2006 form with two tries. Former North Queensland Cowboy John Doyle showed some deft touches with the ball, and fullback Aidan Kirk looked dangerous when in possession. Second rower Nigel Plum was outstanding in defence and attack and prop Glenn Hall worked hard in the oppressive conditions. Former British forward Mark Edmondson would have found the searing temperatures a far cry from playing at Knowsley Road, St. Helens.
Newtown?s Jim Beam Cup squad turned on their best trial performance when they defeated Cabramatta by 32-18 at the Narellan Sports Ground on Saturday evening. Coach Greg Matterson used 32 players in the trial and would have been pleased with the improved form, the physical toughness and will to win shown in this game. Matterson?s difficulties in deciding upon which players to retain weren?t made any easier with this trial, but he could let Newtown supporters know that the Jets look like having another very competitive Jim Beam Cup team in this year?s premiership competition.
The Newtown Jets are back at home this Saturday against Western Suburbs in the VB Premier League. Sunday?s surprise loss to Souths is sure to bring out the best in the Jets in their first home game of the year at Henson Park. The Jets-Magpies VB Premier League match kicks off at 4:00pm, and will be preceded by a Newtown versus Asquith Jim Beam Cup trial match starting at 2:30pm.
Classy centre Lelea Paea has been in great form for the Jets in 2006.