Young Jets lay claim to their Night of Pride [24-18]
Friday, 18 May, 7.00 pm. North Sydney Oval
The Newtown Jets went into Friday night's VB Premier League match against North Sydney very much the underdogs, bearing in mind the call-ups into the Roosters NRL squad due to State of Origin representative commitments, injuries plus the transfer of Josh Lewis to the Gold Coast Titans.
Amazing David Vs Goliath victory as Frank Hyde trophy stays with Newtown
North Sydney had named a near full-strength team and looked poised to regain the Frank Hyde Shield which is contested on an annual basis between the two 1908 foundation clubs.
Ten of Newtown's 17-man squad were either playing Jersey Flegg last year or still qualified for the under 20's grade this season. In a benchmark display of courage and determination, this young Newtown side led 12-6 at halftime, but then looked to have faltered when the Bears fought their way back to 18-all with nine minutes left to play – only for the Jets to engineer what was to be the winning try five minutes from fulltime and an enthralling 24-18 victory.
Jets gain first-half lead through determination and creative attack
Newtown enjoyed an early territorial advantage and run of penalties in the first half but couldn't turn this surfeit of possession into precious points.
Jets halfback Jamie Soward kicked a penalty goal after fifteen minutes, but the relative ease of a runaway try to the Bears five minutes later looked ominous for the youthful Jets, several of whom were showing obvious wear and tear from the torrid forward battle with the giant Norths pack.
Soward nearly laid on a try for Troy Savage in the 32nd minute when the Junior Kiwis centre just failed to grasp his captain's well-placed corner kick. Five minutes later Soward chip-kicked, regathered miraculously and sent workhorse frontrower Dale Newton in under the posts at the northern end.
Soward continued to torment the Bears, this time with a pinpoint corner kick for which the debutant winger Rhys Pritchard out-jumped his opponent and scored, enabling the Jets to go in at the halftime break with a 12-6 lead.
Norths dominant pack gave way to team courage and attacking mastery
The second half of this Shield decider had all the excitement and tension of an elimination semifinal.
Soward maintained his purple patch of form by threading a perfectly-weighted kick into the North Sydney in-goal zone where two Bears defenders desperately tried to ground the ball only for the masterful Jets halfback to do the honours instead.
The experienced Norths pack started to gain the ascendancy midway through the second half with converted tries in the 58th and 70th minutes, drawing level at 18-all. It looked as if the Bears would rampage home despite all the bravery and resolution of the makeshift Newtown team.
Five minutes from fulltime a thrilling midfield dash by Soward, coming off a Norths turnover, was halted a mere ten metres short of the tryline. The ball was swept quickly to the right for Kiwi international centre Iosia Soliola to plunge over in the corner at the Ken Irvine Scoreboard end of the ground.
Soward brought a throaty roar from the large contingent of Jets faithful in attendance when he converted from the sideline, for the final score of 24-18.
Great player performances - a true roll of honour
Newtown coach Paul Young was justifiably pleased with the commitment and fierce camaraderie shown by his players. Danny Williams, as usual one of the best Jets forwards, had his nose badly smashed in the first half but stayed on as a wonderful inspiration to his team-mates. Dale Newton, the hard-working, rock solid prop forward from central casting won the players' player award, while hooker George Ndaira constantly harried the big Norths forwards with his dummy-half sorties.
Special mention needs to be made of all the youngest players on Friday night – Shaun Foley, Rhys Pritchard (an impressive wing debut), Troy Savage, the cool and calculating five-eighth Rory Kostjasyn, Grant Millington, Hep Cahill, Anthony Cherrington (also making his competition debut with the Jets), the battered but unbowed Danny Williams, James Shillington and Stanley Waqa (also on debut). It was a night to remember for all of these young men and one to provide the impetus to take their own careers forward.
Second-rower Adam Schubert made a strong comeback after an extended layoff due to major knee surgery, while the splendid Soward gave the class of performance that would have done credit to the acclaimed North Sydney halfback Duncan Thompson, who graced this same ground more than 85 years ago.
The Newtown Jets face another tough away assignment next Saturday evening (May 26th), when they travel south to Toyota Park to take on Cronulla-Sutherland in a VB Premier League competition match at 5.30pm. This match is the major curtain-raiser to the Sharks-Roosters NRL clash at 7.30pm.