3.00 pm, Sunday, 4 March 2012
Ringrose Park, Cnr Cumberland & Gt Western Hwy
NSW Cup ladder
Browse moment-by-moment game action in Gary Sutherland's match gallery, or view game highlights in the galleries of Mike Bidboudis and Jason McCauley.
Hot weather no barrier for young Jets
The Newtown Jets opened their 2012 VB NSW Cup campaign with an authoritative 40-18 win over Wentworthville at Ringrose Park on Sunday.
Although the Jets had easily accounted for the same opponents in a trial match on the previous weekend, Wentworthville fielded a considerably better credentialed line-up in this first competition round and had the advantage of playing at home.
The oppressively hot conditions were seen as being likely to affect the performances of both teams.
Teams share first-half honours till last-minute try by Newtown
Newtown led 12-0 midway through the first half, with second-rower Tom Symonds scoring the Jets' first try of the 2012 season after halfback Mark Kheirallah had sent a well-weighted grubber kick into Wenty's in-goal.
Strongman front-rower Josh Ailaomai, formerly with the Newcastle Knights, produced a classy off-load that sent fullback Alofa Alofa away to the tryline, leaving the opposition fullback stranded in the process.
The home side dominated territory and possession late in the first half and the Jets tired visibly in the energy-sapping humidity, allowing Wentworthville to draw level at the 35th minute mark.
The Jets mounted a late raid that saw halfback Kheirallah produce a precision cut-out pass, resulting in a try to former NZ Warriors centre Adam Henry.
Although the Jets led 18-12 at the break, there was some concern that the sweatbox conditions and Wentworthville's more experienced forward pack might enable the home team to grind out a victory.
Brilliant evasive running by Alofa Alofa, followed by strong territory-gaining running by Ryan Verlinden and Tom Symonds, ensure that the Jets had good field position for a high John Littlejohn bomb towards the right touchline.
Daniel Tupou soared high, took the ball and as he fell in the tackle, passed the ball to Kurt Kara who was backing up at speed and who then dashed 20 metres to ground the ball behind the posts.
A great try, caught by the ever-present camera of Gary Sutherland.
Jets surge forward in second half
Jets coach Greg Matterson and his staff would surely have been pleased with the team's dynamic third quarter performance.
Newtown gained control of the match through two converted tries early in the second half, both scored by City Origin representative, Tom Symonds. Halfback, Kheirallah, and hooker, Kurt Kara, added further tries that gave Newtown a 40-12 lead with twenty minutes still to play.
Wentworthville scored a converted try ten minutes from full-time that completed the scoreboard attendant's work for the afternoon.
This was a confident and skilful performance from a Newtown squad that was really only playing its second game together.
Impressive centre, Adam Henry, on debut in the Newtown colours, turned on a man of the match effort and was involved in three of the Jets' second half tries, as well scoring one himself right on halftime.
Coach Matterson noted the team's effective on-field communication and willingness to work for each other, favourable traits for a team that has only just come together and where nearly half the squad have only recently graduated from the Toyota Cup ranks.
Front-rowers, Josh Ailaomai, Isaac Liu and team captain, Khalid Deeb, finished on top of their more experienced opponents while Tom Symonds tormented Wenty's left-side defence. Lock Ahmad Ellaz, one of the finds of 2011, showed he has lost none of his appetite for hard work and Mark Kheirallah looked self-assured in the halfback role.
Newtown Jets 40 [Tom Symonds 3, Alofa Alofa, Adam Henry, Mark Kheirallah, Kurt Kara tries; Mark Kheirallah 6 goals]
Wentworthville Magpies 18 [3 tries; 3 goals]
Half-time: Jets led 18-12 after Adam Henry scored with just seconds to go.
Officials: Referee, Jon Stone; Touch Judges, Richard Daizli, Brendan Wood.
Most of the game was played in blazing sunshine. The players battled heat and humidity until the skies clouded over in the second half and very light rain fell intermittently, bringing some relief.
A large group of happy Newtown supporters greeted an equally happy band of players in the traditional way on the western fence after the game and as we all left the ground, the victory song of the Jets roared out from the Jets dressing room..
The Jets stay on the road this coming weekend when they meet the Newcastle Knights at the Lyall Peacock Oval, Toronto on Saturday, 10 March. This second round VB NSW Cup fixture is timed to kick off at 3.00pm. The Knights are coming off an away win on Saturday against last year's grand finalists, the Auckland Vulcans, and look to have a very strong team roster.