Jets brought undone by Groundhog Day curse [26-28]
The Newtown Jets went within an ace of upsetting the VB Premier League front-runners the Bulldogs in the deferred Round 13 match played at Henson Park on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs led 16-12 at halftime and hung on for a gripping 28-26 win over the Jets, who have now lost their last three games at Henson Park by razor-thin margins.
The Groundhog Day reference is drawn from the repetitive similarity of trends in Newtown's recent home defeats, with possession turnovers, cheap penalties and low completion rates all working against the Jets in this match that they so badly needed to win.
There were some great individual efforts from several Newtown players on the night but ultimately it was the quality of the Bulldogs' 6, 7 and 9 – Holdsworth, Cutler and Ngawini – that gave the competition leaders the decisive edge.
Jets took lead twice but Dogs came back
Jets centre Vince Mellars (who had one of his best games of this season) opened the try scoring in the tenth minute and stand-in goal-kicker George Ndaira converted the try.
The Dogs nearly returned fire from the kick-off when they immediately regained possession and raided the Newtown line, only for referee Luke Potter to pull the likely try-scorer back for a forward pass. The Bulldogs didn't need to wait long as they quickly equalised after the Jets had surrendered possession in midfield.
Newtown went close to scoring on three occasions midway through the first half with forwards Shane Shackleton and Mickey Paea both held up over the line and winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall just narrowly failing to snare an in-goal grubber kick from halfback George Ndaira.
Shaun Kenny-Dowall scores first of four tries
Kenny-Dowall did score in the 23rd minute and Ndaira raised Newtown supporters' hopes with a soaring conversion from the left-hand sideline.
Canterbury took full advantage of an undisciplined Jets penalty (with argumentative Newtown players being marched another ten metres for their trouble) as five-eighth Holdsworth found the line a full further sixty metres downfield.
The Dogs used their excellent field position to score and convert a try in the 35th minute, and three minutes later followed up with another try after the Jets had turned over possession thirty metres out from their own line.
Typical second half comeback from Jets despite giving opposition chances
Newtown put themselves under pressure early in the second half but quickly rallied, with the big-hearted Mickey Paea being held up across the tryline for a second time.
The big Kiwi Kenny-Dowall scored again after the Bulldogs failed to nullify an in-goal grubber kick for the scores to be tied up at 16-all.
Once again the Jets presented their opponents with easy possession and the pacy Canterbury halfback scored a long distance try from a familiar but well-worked scrumbase move.
Newtown ripped back into contention following an inspirational carry by prop Dave Shillington; Ndaira's kick for the corner was fumbled by the Canterbury fullback and that man Kenny-Dowall was right on the spot to claim his third try.
The groundhog's scourge held steadfast as yet another Newtown midfield fumble was fruitfully exploited by the Bulldogs in the next set of tackles, stretching their lead out to 28-20 fifteen minutes from fulltime.
Determined attack as clock ticked down - one goal the difference
Time proved to be the Jets enemy as they threw everything at Canterbury in the latter stages of the game. Ndaira sent a well-weighted kick into the Bulldogs in-goal zone and no less than six Jets chasers set upon the Canterbury ball-carrier, forcing a goal-line dropout.
Newtown used the ball well and the raw-boned Kenny-Dowall bagged his fourth try for the night, with Ndaira's conversion bringing the Jets to within two points. Fortune favoured the visitors and they held on for their 28-26 victory.
Newtown's best forwards were Shane Shackleton, David Shillington,
Heath L'Estrange and captain Adam Schubert. Mickey Paea impressed with both his work-rate and his pugilistic skills that brought a throaty roar from Jets diehards in the grandstand.
George Ndaira, Vince Mellars, winger Troy Savage and the pride of Waikato
Shaun Kenny-Dowall were the best of the backline division.
There were plenty of high-profile Rugby League identities in attendance on the night with Channel 9's Phil Gould, Roosters NRL head coach Chris Anderson and assistant coach Brad Fittler as well as Bulldogs NRL head coach Steve Folkes all taking in the action.
Alberto's Pizzeria Restaurant Players' Player award was won by the Jets captain, Shane Shackleton.
The Newtown Jets have a bye this weekend (29th June-2nd July) and are then playing away to Manly-Warringah at Brookvale Oval on Saturday, 7th July at 5.30pm. This match will be the curtain-raiser to the Sea Eagles-Roosters NRL match at 7.30pm.