6.00 pm, Saturday, 30 August
Windsor Sports Complex, Windsor
NSW Cup ladder [end of last round]
The Mini and the Jets show hits downtown Windsor
Newtown's hard-fought 18-10 win away to the Windsor Wolves on Saturday evening will no doubt be remembered primarily for the successful playing comeback by Sydney Roosters international fullback Anthony Minichiello.
This was a match though that had plenty going for it in its own right - both teams were desperate to claim fourth place on the VB NSW Cup competition table and the chance to stage a home semi-final, plus the game was played with all the intensity and rigour usually associated with an elimination semi-final.
Wolves took honours in first half
The man of the hour, Anthony Minichiello, nearly scored in the first minute of play when he flashed on to a pass at top speed and jinked his way past several Wolves defenders.
The Jets repeated some bad habits of past weeks, conceding penalties late in the tackle count that gifted the Wolves great field position and motivation.
Windsor led 10-0 after 29 minutes having outflanked Newtown's right-side defence for their first try and scoring their second through an in-goal grubber kick.
Jets lock Hep Cahill, one of Newtown's form players in recent weeks, split the Wolves on-line defence late in the first half for the Jets to trail 10-4 at halftime.
Halftime dressing room becomes injury ward
There was plenty of drama for the Jets coaching staff as Newtown's injury toll became apparent in the halftime dressing rooms.
Prop Shane Shackleton was sidelined with a bad ankle injury, big Stanley Waqa was heavily concussed, backrower Mickey Paea had a severely corked thigh, plus it was always intended that Anthony Minichiello would not be playing an entire game after such a long layoff.
Forwards Frank-Paul Nuuausala and Riley Brown were also returning from injury but faced a gruelling second half with no-one left on the interchange bench.
Despite injuries, Jets dominate in attack and defence in second half
Anthony Minichiello directs team-mates to gaps in the defence
Minichiello scored one of his trademark tries in the second minute of the second half, seizing on great lead-up work from Nuuausala and backrower Daniel Green.
The Jets scored again in the tenth minute after five-eighth Sean Rudder's pinpoint kick for the corner was tapped back infield by winger Damon Alley-Tovio to the eagerly supporting Daniel Green.
"Mini" topped everything with a towering conversion from the sideline, at which point Roosters NRL coach Brad Fittler rightly determined he had shown enough form in his comeback game (and in his somewhat unlikely appearance in Newtown's royal blue colours).
Hep Cahill bagged his second try in the 16th minute and the beleaguered Jets, with no bench replacements, defended stoutly for the remainder of the game. Windsor came close to scoring on several occasions but could not break Newtown's unyielding line defence.
Team & player performances
Jets coach Greg Matterson praised his team's impregnable second-half defensive effort, declaring that the Newtown players showed pride, trust and confidence in each other, all great team-building qualities on the eve of the semi-finals.
Newtown's best performers on the night were Hep Cahill, Daniel Green, Ray Moujalli, Riley Brown and Frank-Paul Nuuausala in the forwards, while the halves Rory Kostjasyn and Sean Rudder and centre Toshio Laiseni were the best of the backs.
Anthony Minichiello was tested in all aspects of a fullback's game and looked to be fully NRL-ready.
The memorable occasion was enhanced by the large contingent of Roosters NRL squad members and coaching staff who travelled to the north-west to cheer on "Mini" and his Newtown Jets team-mates.
The Jets return to Henson Park next Saturday, 6 September, for the final competition round and the Centenary club reunion day for all past and present Newtown players, officials and supporters. The local derby against inner-western rivals the Balmain Tigers gets underway at 3.00pm.
Newtown Jets: 18
4 tries, 1 goal
Windsor Wolves: 10
2 tries, 1 goal
half-time: Windsor led 10-4.
Weather: Mild, humid, overcast, light rain fell throughout the second half.
Playing surface: Good.
Referee: Gavin West
Touch Judges: Danielle Berry, Shaun Evans
WELL DONE JETS!!