RD8b – Manly prevails in a tight struggle against the Jets [16-18]

Newtown centre Samisoni Langi struggles with two Manly-Warringah defenders, with his Jets team-mates Sio Siua Taukeiaho and Tautau Moga in the background.

Report on the Round 8B VB NSW Cup match between Newtown and Manly-Warringah, played at Henson Park on Saturday, 3rd May 2014.

Newtown’s grim Rugby League season continued when the Jets lost 18-16 to Manly-Warringah at Henson Park last Saturday. The Sea Eagles led 6-0 at half-time and the second half turned into a gripping battle between two teams desperate to break away from the back end of the competition table. The Jets scored three tries to two in the second half and mounted a desperate attacking onslaught in the dying minutes of the game, but Manly’s defence held strong when it was most needed.

The first half was a rugged contest and the opening points weren’t scored until the 26th minute, when the Sea Eagles raced away for a long-distance try after a Newtown kick had been charged down. Manly went in at the break with that 6-0 lead. Both teams registered high completion rates in the first half and showed real commitment in defence. Several try-scoring opportunities went begging for the Jets when they opted for unproductive kicks rather than taking on the stretched Manly defensive line.

Centre Josh Davis, on debut for the Jets, scored in the fifth minute of the second half . Halfback Arana Taumata’s conversion from the left sideline enabled Newtown to draw level at 6-all. Manly capitalised on a midfield turnover ten minutes later and scored a converted try. The elusive Taumata skirted the sideline when he scored in the 18th minute, but his conversion attempt (from virtually the same spot as his previous attempt) hit the left-hand upright and bounced away.

Newtown’s completion rate fell away in the second half and although the Jets ended with a penalty tally of 7-1 in their favour, their errors and fruitless kicking options undermined the benefit of much of the possession they had. By contrast the Sea Eagles maintained their level of ball control from the first half. The Sea Eagles increased their lead to 18-10 and looked to have the result locked up, but Taumata scored a brilliant individual try in the 77th minute when he took a quick tap from a penalty 35 metres out. Sio Siua Taukeiaho’s hurried conversion made it 18-16 to the Sea Eagles with less than two minutes left to play. The Jets threw everything into a thrilling last-minute attacking surge but time ran out on them.

Jets coach Greg Matterson  pointed to Newtown’s last play options and the lack of vision displayed when there were opportunities to run the ball as being key factors in this narrow defeat. The Jets coaching staff praised the effort put in by all the forwards, with Saulala Houma and Kurt Kara receiving special mention. In the backs Josh Davis was solid on debut and Samisoni Langi and Tautau Moga turned in much improved performances.

There were several distinguished guests in attendance at Henson Park on Saturday, including Nigel Wood, the Chief Executive Officer of the English Rugby League and recently voted in as the Chairman of the Rugby League International Federation. Other special guests included Graeme Thompson from the Scottish Rugby League and the Rugby League European Federation, along with Jon Roberts, the Performance and Coaching Director of the English Rugby League.

This Saturday, 10th May, sees the first leg of the 2014 Frank Hyde Shield series, with Newtown hosting old-time adversaries North Sydney in a 9th Round NSW Cup fixture that is timed for kick-off at 3.00pm. There is also a NSW Cup curtain-raiser at Henson Park next Saturday, with the Cronulla Sharks playing Wentworthville at 1.00pm.

Photo: Gary Sutherland Photography.