The Newtown Jets are in the 2018 Intrust Super Premiership Grand Final after toppling the Penrith Panthers 28-24, who haven't lost since May.
Match: Panthers v Jets
Finals Week 3 -
Venue: Leichhardt Oval
In scorching conditions, the players from either side could barely string a sentence together due to fatigue, showing how much fight and effort went into the Preliminary Final.
Newtown had the first real opportunity of the game, but it wasn’t to be when Reuben Rennie’s eyes lit up and he had a second effort at planting the ball down, conceding a penalty.
A great defensive read stopped Aaron Gray from scoring shortly afterwards, and that play inspired Penrith to go up-field and score the first try of the game when Liam Martin showed brute strength and power to wrestle his way over the line.
Inspirational front-rower Kaide Ellis came off the field with a HIA off the kick-off after a huge collision with Kurt Dillon, but Penrith got one back on him in the next set with an aggressive slam to the ground forcing the ball loose whilst coming out of trouble.
Newtown were on the board next when the ball was shifted towards the left wing and Bessie Aufaga-Toomaga stretched out to score in the corner, to which Flanagan calmly potted the conversion.
The Panthers’ next try can only be described one way, razzle dazzle; Caleb Aekins threw the first offload and after a string of passes that actually had the side going backwards, Will Burns put Liam Coleman into space who strolled over under the posts.
The teams were going try-for-try when Will Kennedy ran onto a Kyle Flanagan ball and sliced through the defence to score, but the Jets broke the chain when they denied a gift two points from in front, forced a dropout, and Reuben Rennie finished off a right-to-left shift to take the lead back on the stroke of half-time.
A knock on to begin the half gave Penrith an immediate opportunity, and Liam Martin took advantage of a backtracking marker to score from dummy half under the posts.
A penalty got the Jets into good position for the first time of the second half and some Blayke Brailey brilliance got them on the board once again when he shaped left and threw a sharp pass to Briton Nikora, who showed strength to crash over.
An incredible run by Sione Katoa where got to halfway and beating a number of defenders in the process put the Jets on the front foot, and a perfect kick by Flanagan at the end of the set was pounced on by Nikora who had his second and increased their lead to 10 points.
The Panthers had to score next to keep their season alive and the class of Wayde Egan shone through, showing some serious vision to grubber out of dummy half and the race was won by Adam Keighran.
The most tense 15 minutes of the season followed, with the Panthers desperately trying to take the lead with a try but the Jets continually turned them away. The final play of the game saw over half of the Newtown team tackle the ball carrier to earn their spot in the Grand Final.