By Rob Sheeley
The Illawarra Cutters have made it two on the trot in the VB NSW Cup after a 24-14 win over the Newtown Jets at WIN Stadium.
The win also meant the Cutters were the recipients of the Tom Kirk Cup, which the two sides play for each season.
The first 20 minutes was marked by plenty of try-scoring opportunities that didn't come to fruition. It wasn't until the 20th minute that the Cutters finally broke the deadlock after a long, clever run by Will Matthews. He bamboozled the Jets defence to score, with Michael Witt converting to give the Cutters a 6-0 lead.
The Cutters squandered a golden opportunity for a second try not long after. With a two man overlap and plenty of space, it looked a matter of catch and pass for Illawarra but centre Charlie Runciman dropped the ball, letting the Jets off the hook.
Jets half-back Arana Taumata got the scores back on even terms after 29 minutes, when he placed a well-timed kick for centre Rhyse Martin to score with Chris Taripo adding the extras.
With four minutes on the clock until half-time, the Cutters Craig Garvey showed great tenacity close to the line, spinning through a tackle to score under the posts and give Witt an easy conversion. As a result, the Cutters went to the sheds in front for the break at 12-6.
Jack de Belin was impressive for the Cutters in the first half, breaking tackles and making good metres with the ball, but he didn't return for the second half.
The Cutters were quick to increase their lead five minutes into the second half when Nathan Green showed fantastic athleticism to leap high for a cross-field kick to the corner and place the ball down. Witt hit the ball sweetly from the sideline to convert and put the Cutters 12 points in front.
The Jets hit back after the Cutters succumbed to the sustained pressure of repeat sets on their defensive line. Taumata placed a grubber kick in goal and Jets second-rower Jack Siejka beat Green to the ball to score. The Jets were unable to convert, with the score reading 18-10 in the Cutters favour.
The Cutters scored their final points with eight minutes remaining. Matthews was the recipient of a beautiful short ball from Josh Ailaomai, hitting the line hard and making a break. Ailaomai backed up in support and the big forward was able to take Matthew’s pass and score to make it 24-10.
The Jets restored some pride in the final minutes, when Brett Lane received a long pass and switched it back to the inside for Shannon Gallant to score. Taripo didn't convert and the final siren sounded handing the Cutters the 24-14 win.
The Jets will finally play their first home match of the season this Saturday when they host the Bulldogs at Henson Park while the Cutters will be at home again when the Bears come to town.
Illawarra Cutters 24 (N Green, J Ailaomai, W Matthews, C Garvey tries; M Witt 4 goals) def. Newtown Jets 14 (S Gallant, R Martin, J Siejka tries; C Taripo goal) at WIN Stadium, Wollongong.