1.00pm [NZ], 11.00am [EST] Saturday, 16 March 2013
Mt Smart Stadium, Auckland
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The trip across the Tasman has been one of the Newtown Jets more difficult assignments in recent seasons, and last Saturday at Mt Smart Stadium proved to be no exception. The Jets turned on a rather indifferent first half display and trailed the Auckland Vulcans 10-0 at half-time. Newtown's energised third-quarter resurgence put them back into the game but the Vulcans stayed staunch and ultimately won by a comfortable 24-12 margin.
The North Island of New Zealand has recently been declared drought-affected but light rain began to fall at the Mt Smart Stadium in the first half. Both the Jets and Vulcans turned over a lot of ball in the slippery conditions, although the home team held onto the ball to score from a grubber kick that bounced off the goal-post pads in the 8th minute.
The Vulcans added two penalty goals to increase their lead to 10-0, and prevented Newtown from scoring just prior to half-time.
The Jets came out blazing at the beginning of the second half, with coach Greg Matterson having made it clear that their first half performance was a long way short of their tight and disciplined execution against Illawarra the previous Saturday. The Jets were on the board quickly when former Vulcan Saulala Houma charged over from close range, with winger Chris Taripo converting the try. While the third quarter was Newtown's best period of the game, the Vulcans defended gamely and managed to weather the Jets' onslaught.
The game had slipped away from the Jets when the Vulcans added two more tries to lead by 20-6. Newtown's second try came from some determined running and good offloads involving Tinirau Arona, Nafe Seluini, Saulala Houma and finally the impressive Kane Evans who scored. Taripo converted but the Vulcans had the last word with an unconverted try two minutes out from full-time.
It was a disappointing showing from the Jets in the wake of such an upbeat performance against the Cutters in Wollongong. Newtown's completion rate on Saturday was well down and there were too many handling errors in both halves.
Front-rower Kane Evans made a big impression on the crowd and on his opponents with his punishing runs and hooker Nafe Seluini did his best to spark his team-mates.
As a former Warriors NYC player and an Auckland junior Rugby League product, Seluini was closely marked by his opponents. Fullback Henare Wells had some uncomfortable moments but gained confidence as the game progressed.
The Jets return to Henson Park next Saturday, 23 March, for the first time since winning the 2012 VB NSW Cup premiership title.
It is fitting that Newtown's opponents are the North Sydney Bears, one of the Jets' keenest rivals in 105 years of Rugby League football. Next Saturday's match kicks off at 3.00pm and is the first leg of the 2013 Frank Hyde Shield series.
There are junior representative fixtures scheduled between the Sydney Roosters and St George, with the Harold Matthews game starting at 12 noon and the SG Ball fixture at 1.15pm.
Newtown Jets 12 [Saulala Houma, Kane Evans tries; Chris Taripo 2 goals
Auckland Vulcans 24 [4 tries; 3 goals]
Half-time: Vulcans led 0-10