Jets reap the reward of a brave team effort

Hard-running Newtown Jets centre Kenny Niko (with the ball) looks to break through the New Zealand Warriors defence on Sunday evening at Penrith. His team-mate Anthony Moraitis (on the right) is in close attendance. Photo: Gary Sutherland Photography

Report on the ISP NSW Finals Week 2 match between Newtown and NZ Warriors, played at Pepper Stadium, Penrith on Sunday, 11th September 2016 by Glen ‘Bumper’ Dwyer.

The Newtown Jets have advanced to the preliminary finals stage of the 2016 Intrust Super Premiership competition, after beating the New Zealand Warriors 22-18 at Penrith on Sunday evening. It was 8-all at half-time, but the Jets took a strong grip on the result when they scored two converted tries in the first ten minutes of the second half.

Newtown went into the game as underdogs as it was expected that the Warriors with the larger number of players with NRL experience would overpower the Jets. The Warriors began confidently and scored an unconverted try in the fifth minute. The Jets had to withstand a period of extended pressure from the Warriors but they fought their way out of trouble, and five-eighth Josh Cleeland dummied and bustled his way across the tryline in the 14th minute. The try was not converted and the score was 4-all. The Warriors again laid siege at Newtown’s end but turned the ball over inside Newtown’s twenty. The Jets moved downfield on the back of a penalty and Fa’amanu Brown kicked precisely in behind the Warriors’ defensive line for winger Corin Smith to score in the 27th minute. This try wasn’t converted and Newtown led 8-4. The Jets then withstood another barrage of attack from the Warriors and they kept them at bay for three sets. The Warriors employed a crossfield kick that led to a try in the 38th minute. This try was also not converted and the teams went in at halftime with the scores tied at 8-all.

Coach Matterson stressed to his Jets team at the break to keep working on the attacking and defensive ploys they had practiced during the previous week. He warned his players to be ready for what was sure to be a renewed onslaught by the Warriors. Both teams were playing for their season.

The Jets struck early in the second half when hooker and captain matt McIlwrick trailed Josh Cleeland and forced his way over to score in the 44th minute. Fa’amanu Brown converted and the Jets followed this up with a well-constructed try as McIlwrick sent Kurt Kara in to score from an angled run in the 50th minute. Brown’s conversion had Newtown well-placed with a 20-8 lead, and he added a penalty goal on the 61st minute for Newtown to lead by 22-8.

Time was running out for the Warriors as the Jets defence held solid against the full ferocity of the New Zealanders attack. Newtown’s defence was finally breached in the 68th minute when the Warriors scored from a kick towards their flying right wingman. The conversion was unsuccessful and Newtown still had a ten-points buffer.

In the last ten minutes the Jets tried to run down the clock and repeatedly kicked into the corners to force a scrum. The Warriors scored again in the 77th minute and the conversion put them within range of the Jets at 22-18, but Newtown held on for a quite memorable against the odds victory.

Coach Matterson said that the win was a tribute to the Jets’ all in together team spirit, and also their willingness to put into effect the defensive techniques and attacking strategies they had worked on at training. It was a real team effort against strong opposition, and the Jets forwards had all stood up and taken on the big Warriors pack. Matt McIlwrick, Josh Cleeland, Kurt Kara and Anthony Moraitis all had outstanding games.

The Jets move on now to meet the Illawarra Cutters in a preliminary final at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday, 18th September at 5.15pm. The winner goes through to the ISP NSW Grand Final on the 25th September.