Newtown Jets did enough to take the 2 points in Cessnock with a 28-20 win.
It was the perfect present for Newtown Jets coach Greg Matterson who celebrated his 200th game in charge but he had to sit through a late scare to see the win.
It was another scorcher of an afternoon in the coalfields with the Knights and Jets having to battle in 30 plus degree conditions for the second time in as many weeks.
Newcastle opened the scoring after 6 minutes of play with lock forward Luke Yates hitting the line next to the posts. The try was converted and the Knights had an early lead of 6 nil.
It didn’t take long for Newtown to hit back though, after a mistake from Knights fullback Sam Cook allowed the Jets to strike. Jordan Drew did just that by drawing the man and using his strength to barge over the line. The kick was missed and the score remained 6-4.
Matt McIlwrick was looking dangerous early and continued his form throughout the first half with some good runs. On the back of some good metres, the Jets went left again and found Jordan Drew who crossed for his second try after 16 minutes. Fa’amanu Brown missed the conversion but the Jets had the lead 8-6.
A few mistakes from both sides began to creep into their game. Newcastle had several chances to attack only to cough up the ball. A win against the feed gave the Knights another opportunity but they could not cash in.
Newtown then repeated what had worked for them early in the match, getting a roll on up the middle space up the middle. The Jets soon posted their third of the afternoon when Arana Taumata backed up Jacob Gagan to run 40 metres under the posts. Fa’amanu converted his first of the day and the Jets had a strong 14-6 lead at the drinks break.
The defending champions needed a spark. Ken Tofilau made a 70 metre dash for the home side but yet again nothing came from the following plays.
For the away side, every time they had the ball it was easy metres up the middle.
Just before half time the Jets lost their back rower Kurt Capewell with a knee injury. Although a player down, Newtown would enjoy an eight-point advantage in the second half with the sun behind their backs.
It was a rather conservative opening to the second half but eventually Newtown kicked into gear first and almost bombed their fourth try. Fa’amanu looked like he had done enough to cross himself, instead passing a loose ball back inside for Josh Cleeland to pick up the crumbs and score under the posts. Cleeland than converted his own try to have the defending premiers on the ropes at 22-6 early in the second half.
Jordan Drew then had his hat trick and the game was as good as gone for the Knights. Newtown now enjoyed a comfortable 28-6 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Knights had to be the next to score if they were to be any chance and they did just that, with Mao Uta diving over in the corner for his team's second try. Donovan could not add the extras and the Jets led by 18 with 13 left to play.
Newcastle were now enjoying a weight of possession and could sense a comeback when halfback Will Pearsall scored under the posts. Donovan added the extras and the defending premiers were within 12 points with 10 to go.
The pressure was mounting on Jets, as the Knights were again in great field position. The momentum was all with the Knights but time was against them. The Knights crossed for a late try on the bell through James Elias but Newtown would survive a late comeback, winning the game 28-20.
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