Knights Have the last laugh at the Jets expense [26-20]
The Newtown Jets staged yet another of their famed second-half comebacks in the VB Premier League match against the Newcastle Knights played at Henson Park on Saturday, but on this occasion there was to be no triumphant finale.
The Jets had trailed by 20-6 at halftime and fought back to 20-all with only three minutes left until the final siren – only to have victory snatched away from them in virtually the last ninety seconds of play, with the Knights coming up trumps by 26-20.
Strong start by Jets fails to secure points in first half
Newtown began this match strongly and dominated possession and field position in the first ten minutes without putting points on the board. A disastrous eight minutes of play midway through the first half saw the Knights stack on three quick tries to lead 16-0 after twenty-two minutes.
Newcastle's first try came from a Jarryd Hayne-type speculator pass that had gone horribly wrong in the Newtown in-goal zone, a feat which was remarkably duplicated by the Knights in the 34th minute, gifting a try to the ever-vigilant Jets winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall.
A controversial 40/20 decision to the Knights two minutes before halftime put the visitors in a prime attacking position, from which they promptly conjured up a try right on the halftime break.
Coach fires up the second half revival
The Jets responded well to coach Paul Young's robust version of a St. Crispin's Day halftime address, and methodically set about reclaiming the match.
Jets centre Mitch Aubusson scored in the 55th minute on the end of a well-directed kick from debutant halfback Michael Bond** and a powerhouse surge forward from prop Mickey Paea.
Hooker George Ndaira maintained Newtown's momentum when he scored from a long-distance dummy-half dash, which, with Shaun Foley's conversion, put Newtown right back into the contest at 20-16.
Knights gain victory in frenzied last 15 minutes
The last fifteen minutes provided non-stop excitement for the season's best crowd, with utility back Troy Savage making a determined forty metres charge for the line only to be bundled into touch centimetres from scoring.
Prop Frank-Paul Nuuausala was held up over the line with four minutes left on the clock, but in the next set Aubusson cleverly positioned Kenny-Dowall who claimed his second try. Foley was unable to convert and the scores were locked up at 20-all with barely two minutes remaining.
In one of the last sets of the game the Jets turned over possession in a tackle, with the Knights gratefully accepting the invitation and scoring the winning try literally in the last ninety seconds of play.
The loss cost the Jets a top four position as they now prepare for a tough campaign against the competition's top three teams in successive weeks.
Newtown's best backs were Mitch Aubusson (the players' player choice) and the man from Ngaruawahia, Shaun Kenny-Dowall. Young halfback Michael Bond turned in a tidy performance and will certainly benefit from his first appearance in the VB Premier League.
The best of the forwards were Mickey Paea, George Ndaira, Adam Schubert and Grant Millington.
The Jets return to Henson Park next Saturday (9th June) for a 3.00pm appointment with the VB Premier League competition leaders and near-neighbours, the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
**About Michael Bond
Michael Bond makes his debut as Newtown’s halfback in Saturday’s VB Premier League match against the Newcastle Knights. Michael joined the Sydney Roosters this year but was injured during the trials. He has returned to the active playing ranks via the Roosters Jersey Flegg team in recent weeks, playing five-eighth in the Roosters Jersey Flegg team in Rounds 9 and 11.
Michael played for the strong Wavell High (Brisbane) school team in the Arrive Alive Cup series, as well representing Queensland in the Under 17 and Under 19 State representative teams. He has also played with the Toowoomba Clydesdales in the Queensland Cup competition (the Queensland equivalent of the VB Premier League). He comes highly recommended by former Newtown and Canberra forward Dean Lance, now on the coaching staff at the Melbourne Storm.