3.00 pm, Saturday, 9 March 2013
WIN Stadium, Cnr Crown & Harbour Streets, Wollongong
Browse the 2013 Newtown Jets Staff & players gallery
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Browse moment-by-moment game action and game highlights in Gary Sutherland's photo gallery.
The defending VB NSW Cup premiers, the Newtown Jets, won their opening round match of the 2013 competition when they defeated the Illawarra Cutters 30-10 in a hard-fought and at times spiteful encounter played at the WIN Stadium, Wollongong.
Anticipating a hard contest
The Jets and the Cutters have built up a fierce inter-club rivalry in a relatively short space of time, with the Illawarra-based team having entered the NSW Cup ranks as the feeder club to St George-Illawarra just last year.
As the Jets were only fielding seven players from last year's Grand Final squad and having played just two trial matches this year, it was thought that it could be several weeks before the Jets gelled as a team and began to show their best form.
First half - strong in attack and defence
This young Jets team hit the ground running and took on a very tough and physical Cutters team without flinching.
Rugged prop Josh Ailaomai maintained his robust form from the 2012 finals and crashed over to score Newtown's first try of the 2013 competition rounds in the game's seventh minute. Jets back-rower Andrew Pearn showcased another of his deft around the body passes that sent centre, Usaia O'Sullivan, on a sixty-metre sprint to the tryline. Winger Chris Taripo converted both tries, including one from the sideline.
The Cutters exploited a Newtown error at their own end of the field and narrowed the margin to 12-4.
The Jets then weathered a tough period where they were forced into two goal-line drop-out situations and had to defend in their own quarter for an extended period.
Jets five-eighth Adam Henry sent giant prop Saulala Houma over to score at the 25-minute mark, and Taripo's third goal gave Newtown an 18-4 lead. The Jets missed a try-scoring opportunity in the 30th minute and the Cutters took advantage of some ragged Jets defence to score their second try two minutes before half-time.
Second half - no place for faint-hearted
The second half was notable for a succession of errors by both teams and also for some full-blooded physical confrontations.
The Cutters bombed a try-scoring chance 13 minutes into the second half that would have put them right back into the game. Illawarra's bad handling proved to be their undoing in the game's third quarter.
A succession of strong hit-ups by Newtown's big forwards put the Jets within try-scoring range, and hooker Nafe Seluini repeated his thrilling Grand Final effort when he sliced through from dummy-half to score with 18 minutes remaining.
Seluini topped off a top-class performance by sending Houma over for his second try in the last minute of the second half.
Newtown's heavy-hitting forwards were particularly strong and ultimately won the day over their willing opponents.
Young front-rowers Dylan Napa and Kane Evans, both honoured graduates from the Roosters NYC ranks, absorbed plenty of punishment but proved what fine prospects they are.
Saulala Houma, Andrew Pearn, Brad Barrett, Isaac Liu and the rampaging Josh Ailaomai all made huge contributions while Ahmad Ellaz made a strong impact from the bench.
The elusive Seluini was in super form and caused the Cutters defenders no end of grief.
Wingers Paul Rokolati and Chris Taripo, also from last year's Roosters NYC squad, were both solid on debut in the NSW Cup. There is scope for improvement in Newtown's kicking game, and a need to select better end of set options, as well as to minimise the error count that contributed to both of the Cutters' tries.
The Newtown Jets travel across the Tasman to take on the Auckland Vulcans next Saturday, 16 March, at Mt Smart Stadium Number One. This is always one of the toughest away games on the NSW Cup calendar, and the match kicks off at 11.00am (Sydney daylight saving time).
Newtown Jets 30 [Saulala Houma 2, Usaia O'Sullivan, Nafe Seluini, Josh Ailaomai tries; Chris Taripo 5 goals]
Illawarra Cutters 10 [2 tries, 1 goal]
Half-time: Jets led 18-10.
Officials: Referee, Phil Henderson; Touch Judges, Kasey Badger, John Woods.
Playing surface: Excellent.
Weather: Sunny, warm.
First silverware for 2013 - the Tom Kirk Trophy
The victorious team [listed on right]
Director of Rugby League Illawarra, Bob Millward, was a prime mover in the establishment of the Tom Kirk Trophy, which will be contested by the Newtown and Illawarra NSW Cup teams each year in memory of Tom Kirk and his family - great servants of Rugby League with Newtown and the 'Gong.
Tom Kirk was a member of the 1943 premiership-winning Bluebags team and can be seen in the premiership team photo, back row, second from left.
He was the first man to kick 100 goals and reach 1000 points in a premiership season - and that when tries were only worth 3 points! As with many young footballers of this era, Tom's WWII service is probably the reason for his never representing Australia.