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The Newtown Jets advanced to the next round of the NSW Cup finals after recording a less than inspiring 32-28 win against Wentworthville at Henson Park on Saturday. The Jets had led 24-12 at half-time and 28-12 midway through the second half, but then turned in a sub-standard final quarter that could well have ended in disaster against stronger opposition.
Playing in front of one of this season's best home crowds, Newtown opened with plenty of enthusiasm but errors prevented them from applying any sustained pressure on the Wentworthville line. The visitors scored first when their five-eighth snapped up a wayward Newtown kick and ran 85 metres to score under the posts. The Jets responded through halfback Liam Foran and centre Tu'u Maori who combined to put winger Troy Savage in at the southern left-hand corner, with Maori's soaring sideline conversion making the score 6-all. Newtown fullback Steve Naughton made a long break and was well-supported by Foran, who shrugged off an ineffectual attempt at tackle and went on to score near the posts. Maori again converted for Newtown to lead 12-6. Wentworthville equalised after taking full advantage of Newtown conceding a midfield penalty. Ball-playing Jets second-rower Aidan Guerra created a try for Maori ten minutes prior to the break, with the Papua-New Guinea international converting his own try. Five-eighth Tom Symonds made a strong break in the 38th minute and was well supported by hooker Keith Peters and winger Sonny Tuigamala, ending in Tuigamala racing in to score and Maori landing his fourth conversion for Newtown to lead 24-12 at half-time.
The Jets began the second half with a flurry of errors, putting themselves under pressure in their own quarter. Impressive lead-up work by Sonny Tuigamala in the 52nd minute resulted in an unconverted try by centre Chris Tuatara-Morrison. The Jets missed an opportunity to lock up the game when they failed to capitalise on a great break made by front-rower Mose Masoe. Two converted tries to Wentworthville, one a long-distance effort from an intercept and a second when the Jets refused to contest a high kick, invited the visitors right back into the contest at 28-24 with fifteen minutes remaining.
Centre Tu'u Maori, recently named in the NSW Cup team of the season, gave the Jets some breathing space when he positioned winger Troy Savage for his second try. Poor defence and conceding a penalty late in the tackle count allowed Wentworthville to score and get back into the game at 32-28 in arrears, but the Jets managed to hang on to that lead until the final siren.
Jets coach Greg Matterson wryly noted that Newtown had gifted Wentworthville two converted tries and that the Jets should have taken control of the game when they extended their lead to 28-12. His team needed to take heed of their errors in this match and to get ready for next Sunday's elimination final. On the upside, his players had shown plenty of desperation to save this match and there had been some top-class tries scored. Front-rower Tinirau Arona was again voted Newtown's man of the match, with Aidan Guerra and lock Jason Baitieri the best of the other forwards. Halves Liam Foran and Tom Symonds, centre Tu'u Maori and winger Troy Savage had been the best of Newtown's backs.
The Newtown Jets move into the sudden-death phase of the 2010 NSW Cup finals when they meet the Windsor Wolves at Leichhardt Oval next Sunday (19th September.
Tu'u Maori 4 goals
Tom Humble 4 goals.