By Richard Becht at Mt Smart No.2
Newtown came back from a 0-28 deficit to hand the Vodafone Warriors a devastating 30-28 defeat in last Saturday’s vital 24th round VB New South Wales Cup clash at Mount Smart Stadium.
Going into the match in seventh spot just a point inside the top eight, the home side desperately needed success to halt a sequence of three consecutive losses to revive their finals bid.
They were boosted by an injection of NRL experience with the inclusion of veteran prop Sam Rapira and playmaker Chad Townsend against a Newtown side which was 10th on 25 points.
It made a huge difference as the Vodafone Warriors started with a blaze of points in the first 30 minutes.
Winger Solomone Kata was over wide out from dummy half in the opening minutes, and then centre Carlos Tuimavave finished off a nice backline shift for the opening two tries.
A Townsend 40/20 led to a Sam Lousi try, and then winger Jarrod Tua profited after a good lead-up set from his team mates and then front rower Albert Vete took on multiple defenders to score.
Townsend converted four of the five tries for a 28-0 lead.
This match was seemingly headed for just one outcome but it was ominous when the Jets scored twice in the last few minutes of the first half to go to the break with momentum and still in contact at 12-28.
The first 20 minutes of the second half was classic arm wrestle fare before the Jets provided the defining moment, a 40/20 creating a try for French international Remi Casty to leave Newtown only 10 points behind.
It was all about creating pressure and in quick succession Newtown was able to profit. A Vodafone Warriors error led to a try for Jack Siejka in the 68th minute and three minutes late Arana Taumata carved through the middle.
He was stopped by Steve Waetford but deemed not tackled and got up to score. With Nathan Stapleton converting one and Scott Dureau the other, the Jets were 30-28 up with nine minutes to go, a lead they would protect for a remarkable comeback win.
It’s a result which puts a serious dent in the Vodafone Warriors’ top eight hopes.
In their final regular season match the ninth-placed Vodafone Warriors meet North Sydney next Sunday. By then they'll know whether they still have a chance of sneaking into the finals with all other matches being played on Saturday.
Wyong is away to the second-placed Wests Tigers while Cronulla is away to the fifth-placed Mounties; if they both win the Vodafone Warriors will have no chance of making the eight but a loss by either team or both would open the door up.
Newtown Jets 30 (B Lane, R Martin, R Casty, J Siejka, A Taumata tries; N Stapleton 5 goals) def. NZ Warriors 28 (S Kata, C Tuimavave, A Vete, J Tua, S Lousi tries; C Townsend 4 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium.