The Newtown Jets have stayed in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW top eight by scrambling home 18-16 over a fast-finishing Newcastle Knights outfit at Cessnock Sports Ground this afternoon.
The Jets got home in the face of two late Knights tries after establishing a handsome 18-6 lead by half-time.
The Knights started the stronger of the two sides and were rewarded for their early dominance when former Warriors prop Sam Mataora fed off a short ball from fellow prop Mickey Paea to crash over near the posts. Trent Hodkinson converted for a 6-0 Newcastle lead.
Newtown struck back on their first attack inside the Knights 20-metre zone when classy five-eighth Daniel Mortimer dummied over through traffic and the odd high tackle from close range to score the Jets’ reply. Fa’amanu Brown converted to lock up the scores at six points apiece.
The Newtown forward pack then worked their way on top over the next 20 minutes and slowly established good field position on the back of this forward dominance.
This was typified by a a 30-metre burst from giant Newtown Interchange forward Saulala Houma in the 28th minute. This run set up position for a right side spread on the next tackle for centre Jesse Ramien to carry two defenders over the line to score wide out. Brown converted to give the Jets the lad for the first time at 12-6.
Three minutes later, a clever left-side switch late in Newtown’s next attacking set saw a cut-out pass by Mortimer find Matt Evans making the extra man, who in turn passed on to an unmarked Edric Lee who strolled over to score in the corner. Brown again converted to give Newtown a handy 18-6 half-time lead.
The match meandered along in a scoreless fashion for the first 20 minutes of the second half as both sides made their share of mistakes – with the Jets appearing to be moving towards a reasonably comfortable win.
That changed with the game’s main turning point in the 62nd minute.
A Mortimer clearing kick on his own 40-metre line in the last tackle took a wicked rebound off the Knights defence that actually turned its back on the kick.
The rebound bounced favourably for Hodkinson who soccered the ball ahead on the toe before winning the race to the ball in goal to score. He converted his won try to get the Knights back to 18-12.
With a heavy rain shower coming across the ground at this point, the Knights set up the grandstand finish three minutes later when a clever stacking of the short left side blind in the next attacking set went through the hands to find winger Tom Hughes – who bullocked his way through three defenders to score in the corner.
Hodkinson’s conversion from the touchline just missed out to the left to bring the Knights back to being just 18-16 down with plenty of time left to force a win.
With Jets centre Jordan Drew making some critical reads down the visitors’ left side in defence, the Knights were unable to turn their dominant field position into a match winning try in the closing stages – despite throwing everything at the tiring Newtown defence.
Newtown ran the match out in the final minute after getting a relieving penalty for a two man strip of the ball in a tackle.
Newtown will have to improve for a full 80 minutes to make sure of their next match against the last placed Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles at Henson Park next Saturday, while the Knights have a week off with a bye next week before their next assignment against Illawarra at UOW Jubilee Oval on Sunday, 25 June.
Newtown Jets 18 (D Mortimer, J Ramien, E Lee tries; F Brown 3 goals) def Newcastle Knights 16 (S Mataora, T Hodkinson, T Hughes tries; T Hodkinson 2 goals)