Jets pipped at the post by Parramatta yet again [35-30]
Saturday, 23 June, 3.00 pm
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A makeshift Newtown Jets team battled bravely in Saturday's VB Premier League match against Parramatta at Henson Park, only to have victory snatched from them in the last minutes of the game.
The Jets had trailed 19-12 at halftime but had slightly the better of the contest for much of the second half. They were clinging desperately to a 30-29 lead in the game's dying moments but Parra's late converted try gave the Eels a 35-30 victory, leaving the Jets mired on the fringes of the competition's top eight.
Newtown fans responded well to their club's clarion call and the season's best crowd was in attendance for this clash between two of the VB Premier League's fiercest rivals.
Eels take honours in first half
Jets front-rower Dale Newton brought a roar from the partisan crowd when he barged over in the sixth minute, following polished lead-up work by debutant winger Hermani Moala and five-eighth Shaun Foley.
Newtown's defensive fragility was ruthlessly exposed in a forgettable ten-minute spell midway through the first half, with the Eels piling on three tries but only converting one of them.
The Jets responded in the thirtieth minute when three of their best performers on the day – halfback George Ndaira, hooker Heath L'Estrange and five-eighth Shaun Foley - combined for the latter to score and then convert his own try.
Parramatta increased their lead five minutes before the break with a try from a well-directed corner kick, as well as by adding a field goal virtually on the halftime siren.
Jets traditional second-half fight-back almost secured victory
The Jets narrowed the margin to one point after second-rower Anthony Cherrington plunged across the line five minutes into the second half, with Foley adding the extras.
Another breakdown in midfield defence conceded a converted try to the Eels, but the young Jets fought back through a long break by centre Antonio Winterstein, ending in halfback Ndaira sending fullback Aaron Lai on a cleverly-angled run to score to the right of the posts in the 55th minute.
Foley converted for Newtown to trail by 25-24, and the versatile Lai thrilled the big Henson Park Hill crowd with a try-saving tackle barely two minutes later.
Errors hand Eels the advantage despite Jets leading with two minutes to go
Parramatta continued to exploit Newtown's fundamental errors, scoring another try following a possession turnover by the Jets thirteen minutes out from fulltime.
Consecutive penalties from referee McFarlane gave the Jets the territorial platform from which the hard-grafting Newton battered and bulldozed his way through a phalanx of Parra defenders, scoring just to the left of the southern end uprights.
Foley's conversion gave Newtown a 30-29 lead with just four minutes to play. The crowd was attempting to will the Jets home but yet another handling error gifted the Eels possession twenty metres out from Newtown's line.
The Jets defended desperately for a complete set but a penalty to Parramatta gave the Eels another crack with two minutes remaining. Parra then scored from a ricocheting kick that wasn't defused and converted the try.
The Jets still weren't beaten and in the very last minute of play winger Troy Savage nearly grabbed a miracle try from a well-placed "last throw of the dice" kick from Foley.
Coach praises team spirit despite loss
Newtown coach Paul Young admitted that yet another last minute defeat at the hands of Parramatta was gut-wrenching, but he was full of praise for the courage and fierce determination of his team which had undergone several late changes.
Hooker Heath L'Estrange was one of the Jets best, and he was seemingly everywhere in attack and defence. Halves Ndaira and Foley were playing together for the first time but combined like an experienced old firm. Both Savage and Winterstein ran with real purpose and Lai had his best match of the season. Newton (now the club's leading try-scorer), Cherrington and backrowers Grant Millington and Adam Schubert all worked hard in the forwards, while Steve Meredith made a great comeback after major knee surgery back in early 2006.
Half-Time: Parramatta led 19-12.
Referee: Ricky McFarlane.
Playing surface: Average.
Weather conditions: Fine, sunny, cold.
Mid-week - Deferred Round 13 match
The Newtown Jets are back at Henson Park this Wednesday night (27th June) for their deferred VB Premier League match against the Bulldogs, with this match timed for kick-off at 7.00pm.
The Newtown Jets have a BYE in round 16.