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Manly-Warringah ended Newtown?s unbeaten record in home games this season, in the high-scoring VB Premier League match played at Henson Park on Saturday. The Sea Eagles won an exciting contest by 46-36, with two late tries seeing off the Jets? spirited attempt to seal their double-chance in the upcoming finals series. Newtown had been unable to land the killer blow at critical moments in the second half that might well have sealed the result.
The Sydney Airport Jets made another slow start, conceding 18 points in the first 15 minutes, but then clicked into gear to grab the lead by 22-18 with less than ten minutes left in the first half. A defensive lapse allowed a runaway try to Manly just prior to half-time, with the teams going to the break tied up at 22-all.
The lead changed hands several times in the second half, but Newtown just didn?t have the manpower on the day to gain the necessary points buffer. Both the Jets and Manly had made a number of changes due to injuries and suspension in their respective NRL squads, and will field very different line-ups should they meet again in the semi-finals. In such a desperately close contest, along with further injuries in the course of the game, Newtown ultimately paid the price for conceding such a daunting points start and for the effort expended in overhauling that lead.
Newtown?s best forwards were James Stosic, Geoff Johnson, Keith Galloway, Sam Isemonger and Luke Douglas, with Nathan Merritt (3 tries, 4 goals), Russell Aitken and Vince Mellars the best of the backline.
The Sydney Airport Jets went on a points-scoring rampage against the hapless Woy Woy team in the Jim Beam Cup curtain-raiser match on Saturday. Newtown led by 28-10 at half-time and piled on a further 56 points to run out winners by an incredible 84-14, a new record team points-scoring total for Australia?s oldest Rugby League club.
While this was a difficult day to nominate outstanding Newtown players given the mediocrity of the opposition, suffice to say nearly every player contributed to the try-scoring bonanza and to the badly-needed boost to the team?s for and against ratio. The Jets have for the moment wrested back fifth position on the competition table from Cabramatta, but their semi-final hopes now rest on next Saturday?s away assignment against Erina (at Erina Oval, 27th August, 2.30pm). Newtown must win this final match against Erina by a bigger points margin than their nearest rival might achieve in their expected win over Asquith.
Saturday?s matches at Henson Park were notable for the number of high profile Rugby League power-brokers in attendance. NRL CEO David Gallop and NSWRL General Manager Geoff Carr were interested observers from the Jet Set Lounge, along with NSW Leagues Club supremo Chris Bowden and Sydney Roosters CEO Brian Canavan, as well as Sharks Chairman Barry Pierce and several fellow Cronulla Directors. Their collective presence points to the genuine topicality of the Newtown club in the modern Rugby League firmament.
The Parkes Spacemen?s 2005 season came to an end when they crashed out in the Group 11 First Grade minor semi-final, going down by 32-6 to the defending premiers Dubbo CYMS at Victoria Park, Dubbo on Saturday. The Newtown Jetettes lost to the Redfern All Blacks by 30-6 on Friday night, and will now play in the NSWRL Women?s Rugby League qualifying final at Henson Park on Reunion Day, September 3rd.
In the penultimate round of the VB Premier League next Saturday (August 27th), Newtown plays away to the Newcastle Knights at Energy Australia Stadium at 5.30pm, with the Sharks-Knights NRL match set down for a 7.30pm start. The Sydney Airport Jets must win both of their remaining premiership matches to retain their vital fourth place on the VB Premier League competition table.