A never-say-die Newtown Jets outfit has ground out an heroic 16-14 victory in the dying minutes against the newly-formed Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles, showing off impressive defence late in the game.
Despite the loss, Cameron Cullen was the standout performer, having a hand in each of the Sea Eagles' tries, while strong runs from Joseph Paulo and crafty play from Daniel Mortimer helped deliver the win for the Jets. In a slippery affair at HE Laybutt Fields, there was plenty of serious talent on show; the likes of Paulo, Tony Williams, Jeremy Latimore, Mortimer and Kurt Capewell lined up for the Jets, while the home side included Cullen, Joey Lussick, Jackson Hastings and Jonathan and Matthew Wright.
Despite the wet conditions, the game started with relatively high quality ad both sides settled into the new season. It would be the Sea Eagles to take the first points of the game - and their history - when some beautiful work from Cullen send Jonathan Wright over. Lussick added the extras from out wide to give his team a 6-0 advantage after 10 minutes.
The Sea Eagles had all the ball and field possession in the opening quarter, with Pita Godinet heavily involved in the unfamiliar position of fullback. Cullen looked like laying on more points several times but was unable to break through again, with a penalty eventually marching the Jets downfield. It would be a nice offload from Paulo to get the visitors on the board as he sent Mortimer crashing over, with Paulo converting to square things up at six points apiece.
Jonathan Wright had another opportunity when he scooped up a grubber on his own tryline, before Newtown's Malakai Houma also barged over for a four-pointer of his own. With five minutes remaining in the half, however, Cullen delivered again; this time Peter Schuster was the beneficiary as he took a nice cut-out ball to score in the corner. Lussick's conversion attempt was waved away, sending the teams into half-time with a 10-6 scoreline.
The sun began to poke through the clouds early in the second stanza and it brought about two line-breaks: firstly speedster Matt Evans found space for the Jets, before an intercept was thrown to the Sea Eagles' Jerry Key. The big man was far from the fastest in the paddock, however, and despite offloading it to Cullen at the first opportunity the home side was unable to capitalise.
A break off the 20-metre restart gave the Sea Eagles momentum minutes later and they soon found themselves attacking the Jets' line. With the defence calling to look short, that's exactly where dummy-half Cullen went - and he delivered. The five-eighth produced some individual brilliance to break through and score a try of his own, extending the lead to 14-6.
Newtown isn't a team to give up, however, and new hooker Manaia Cherrington eventually got the blue baggers back in the game. Running himself from short-range, the dummy-half scored and Paulo added the extras, bringing the scoreline to 14-12.
An offside call gave Blacktown a chance to hit back and Cullen almost did just that, laying on another good pass to Jonathan Wright. The left centre was deemed to have made a double movement, however, and possession was overturned. With the Sea Eagles soon conceding a penalty on their own line, the Jets took their opportunity to level up with Paulo slotting the penalty goal.
The home side soon became their own worst enemies as they sent the resulting kick-off out on the full, well and truly allowing the Jets back into the contest. With six minutes to go it looked to be Mortimer to break the deadlock, finding space only to be held up by a Jonathan Wright try saver. A Sea Eagles' attempted intercept from the ensuing play was deemed offside, gifting the visitors another easy penalty goal from in front. Paulo made no mistake, giving Newtown a 16-14 advantage.
The final minutes were not easy for the visitors and they would be asked to defend two consecutive sets on their line to hold on for the win. Coach Greg Matterson will be pleased with the determination shown at the end, as the Jets held on for the 16-14 Round 1 win.