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The Sydney Roosters? weekend has gone from bad to worse after the club?s Premier League outfit went down 25-18 to Newtown in an absorbing clash at Henson Park this afternoon.
The loss ensured all three grades had nothing to show from a disappointing round 15 ? after first grade and Jersey Flegg both went down to the Sharks last night.
The Roosters took an 18-10 lead into half time, but were kept scoreless by a spirited Jets outfit ? inspired by second half tries to ex-first graders Ryan McGoldrick and Nathan Merritt.
The Roosters got off to an impressive start, gaining three repeat sets of six on the back of some strong defence by Chris Walker and Sam Perrett and some crafty kicking close to the line from captain Grant Rovelli.
Newtown ? cheered on by a small but parochial home crowd ? were unable to withstand the early onslaught as McKonkie Tauasa opened the scoring in the 5th minute with a classy try on the right touchline. Walker missed the conversion attempt to leave the visitors 4-0 in front.
But the Jets levelled the ledger four minutes later when Rhys Lovegrove crashed over from close range. Merritt missed his conversion attempt to leave the scores locked at 4-all.
Both sides turned up with brutal attitudes in defence, but it was the Roosters who became the first casualty after Jets prop Luke Harlen rebounded off an attempted shoulder charge by Ned Catic before delivering a deft offload for Merritt to bag the first of his two four-pointers. The diminutive fullback piloted the conversion to extend Newtown?s lead to 10-4 in the 15th minute.
Tough hooker Heath L?Estrange sent a scare through the Roosters camp in the 27th minute after leaving the field with rib damage, but later returned to the fray in a courageous effort.
But it was brutal defence from tireless back-rower Nigel Plum that provided the impetus for the Roosters to graft their way back into the contest in the 28th minute, when Tauasa bagged his second try out wide. Again, Walker missed the conversion to leave the Roosters 10-8 behind.
After coach Shane Flanagan sent a message to Jim Dymock on the sideline blasting centre Sam Perrett for failing to contest a Rovelli bomb, the former Australian Schoolboy responded immediately by outjumping Warriors discard Vince Mellars ? before sprinting 40 metres to send Lelea Paea racing over in the right corner with an enterprising piece of play. Walker missed his third goal on the trot to leave the Roosters with a narrow 12-10 advantage.
Tensions on the field threatened to boil over when Jets lock Daniel Dumas upended boom prop Danny Williams ? playing his first game in Premier League after backing up from last night?s Flegg loss ? in a sickening spear tackle. To his credit, the Queensland Under 19?s star rose to his feet immediately, which may have resulted in referee Phil Haines only electing to place the tackle on report.
The Roosters used their anger and a raft of good field position to their advantage just before half time when a brilliant offload from Catic allowed fullback Michael Lett ? backing up from his first grade debut last night in which he received only five minutes game time ? to race 30 metres and put the visitors 18-10 up at the interval following Walker?s first conversion.
Fired up by a passionate home crowd still clinging on to the glory days of the early 80?s, Newtown reduced the deficit to four in the 47th minute when Mellars returned serve for his earlier indiscretion by outjumping Lett to cross out wide.
As both sides lifted their intensity in the second versus third clash, Haines again elected to leave a Jets forward, this time Cameron Ciraldo, on the park despite a shocking high tackle on five-eighth James Aubusson ? who had an unhappy day at the office with some poor defence around the ruck.
Just as the Roosters looked like holding on for a grafting win, Merritt?s second try and McGoldrick?s four-pointer in the 75th minute appeared to put the result beyond doubt at 24-18. But Merritt?s conversion attempt was disallowed after the touch judges couldn?t make up their minds in a comical one flag up, one flag down display.
But a close range field goal to Newtown half and skipper David Hall in the 79th minute sealed a spirited Jets win in front of a delirious Henson Park crowd.
With their resources stretched due to a hefty injury toll, the Roosters lacked the ability to go the full 80 minutes, with a number of players called on to play more game time than usual.
The impact of powerful props Mickey Paea (rested after debuting in first grade last night) and Steve Meredith (knee injury) was sorely missed, but on a positive note, Flegg centre Pee Wee Moke was outstanding in defence after coming from the bench in the second half to make his Premier League debut.
For the Roosters, Plum was a standout, consistently pulling off numerous bone-rattling hits in defence in an attempt to inspire the Roosters to victory.
First grade coach Ricky Stuart and CEO Brian Canavan were in attendance, but their support couldn?t save the club from losing its third clash this round.
The team will need to regroup quickly, knowing a loss next week to the ladder-leading Parramatta Eels could see their mid-season resurgence go to waste.
NEWTOWN JETS 25 (Nathan Merritt 2, Rhys Lovegrove, Vince Mellars, Ryan McGoldrick tries; Nathan Merritt 2/5 goals; David Hall field goal) defeated SYDNEY ROOSTERS 18 (McKonkie Tauasa 2, Lelea Paea, Michael Lett tries; Chris Walker 1/4 goals) at Henson Park; Saturday 18th June 2005; Referee: Phil Haines.