Newtown and Norths Bears turn on a thriller
Last Saturday afternoon at Henson Park was the place to be if you were looking for Rugby League high drama.by NRL
Last Saturday afternoon at Henson Park was the place to be if you were looking for Rugby League high drama. Two of the game's oldest clubs, Newtown and North Sydney, staged a great spectacle in front of the season's biggest crowd, but those elusive elements of luck that can determine the outcome of a close game simply weren't there for the home team. The Jets made a great start with two early tries but the Bears recovered and went in at halftime with a 16-10 lead, a solid achievement considering that Newtown had the advantage of a strong southerly in the first half. The second forty minutes produced some thrilling moments with North Sydney ultimately going one-up in this year's Frank Hyde Shield series by winning this 10th round NSW Cup fixture 26-22.
Newtown dominated the early stages of the game and enterprising play led to winger Sam Latu scoring from a kick into the corner by five-eighth Mark Kheirallah. Several minutes later strong running second-rower Tom Symonds drove in close to the Bears line and Mark Kheirallah stepped his way through the Norths defence in the next play. The Bears regrouped and put pressure on Newtown's line, with the weight of possession eventually resulting in a try. Norths added two more tries to lead 16-10 at the halftime break.
The second half provided plenty of excitement for the big crowd and was a full-blooded contest between these two foundation clubs. The Jets pulled back with a try to winger Daniel Tupou which was converted from wide out by Mark Kheirallah, tying the scores up at 16-all. Just minutes later the Jets broke through the Bears defence and looked certain to score, but the try was thwarted by a desperation all or nothing intercept by Norths winger Curtis Johnston. In a dramatic display of the game's capacity for fluctuating fortunes, Johnston carried the ball well into Newtown's territory and the Bears scored in the same set. To add to the Jets' torment, Norths revisited Newtown's quarter several minutes later and scored from a grubber kick that ricocheted unpredictably in the Jets in-goal. Newtown kept their supporters' hopes alive through a smart try to hooker Glenn Dumbrell with four minutes remaining, but couldn't prise open the Bears' defensive line in the game's hectic final moments.
Jets coach Greg Matterson felt that the game was there to be won but his team hadn't followed their pre-game instructions as practiced at training. Newtown's end of set kicks were in the main defused by the Bears' defenders, whereas Norths forced several repeat sets with their kicks into Newtown's in-goal and maintained greater pressure on Newtown's defence. Matterson also believed that Newtown could have made better use of the strike power in their outside backs in the second half and wasted tackles through repeated drives into the middle of the ruck. There was no doubting the effort made by the Jets players but they had not played smart enough on the day. Several Newtown players turned in sterling physical efforts but had played as individuals rather than as a team.
While the game might have been a good advertisement for the VB NSW Cup and kept the healthy attendance enthralled until the final siren, the loss sets Newtown back into fifth place in the competition. The Jets face more testing opposition next Saturday when they come up against the in-form Newcastle Knights. There is another VB NSW Cup double-header promotion at Henson Park this Saturday (12th May). Cronulla-Sutherland plays Balmain at 1.00pm, while the fifth-placed Newtown Jets take on the third-placed Newcastle Knights in the critical main game at 3.00pm.
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