The Sydney Airport Jets stayed alive in the 2005 VB Premier League finals series when they defeated St.George-Illawarra 31-22, in the elimination semi-final played at Aussie Stadium on Saturday evening.
The match contained all the drama and raw courage one could hope to find in a sudden-death semi-final. There were high quality tries, committed defensive efforts, full-blooded physical confrontations and plenty of players willing to go that extra yard. Newtown gained an early 8-0 lead, but then trailed 12-8 after the Dragons responded with two quick tries. Nathan Merritt and Vince Mellars scored tries for Newtown midway through the first half, and another to rampaging second-rower Clifford Manua just prior to half-time saw the Jets take a useful 24-12 lead into the half-time break.
The Jets then had to defend for extended periods in the second half against very capable opposition - a team that had scored more than fifty points in each of its previous two matches. The Dragons fought back to trail by 24-22 with twenty minutes remaining, but the disciplined and resolute Newtown defenders never allowed the Dragons to regain the lead. Newtown seized a vital points buffer eleven minutes from full-time when big second-rower Jon Green scored on the end of great approach work by five-eighth and captain Russell Aitken and hooker Kevin Kingston. A smartly-taken field goal by Aitken three minutes from the final siren set up Newtown�s final winning margin.
The match statistics tell the story behind the dramatic victory. Newtown�s completion rate in both halves was close to the 90% mark, and the error count and penalties conceded in both halves were the best figures recorded for the season. There were some quality playing performances right from the top to the bottom of the team sheet, and Newtown coach Colin Murphy said he was particularly proud of the defensive commitment shown by his players.
Sam Isemonger, David Thompson, Cameron Ciraldo and Luke Harlen were probably the best of a hard-working forward pack, while Russell Aitken, Geoff Johnson and Ryan McGoldrick deserve special mention for their performances in the backline.
An outstanding feature of the match was the remarkable degree of vocal support given to the team by the big contingent of Newtown supporters in attendance at Aussie Stadium, especially from the well-filled Bay 31 area. The unbridled jubilation displayed at full-time by players and supporters alike made it a memorable evening indeed in this old club�s history.
The Jets now advance into the VB Premier League preliminary final against Parramatta next Sunday (September 25th) at Telstra Stadium, with the precise kick-off time still to be confirmed by the NRL.
Photo courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography;
The Newtown Jets sing their victory song after beating St.George-Illawarra 31-22 in the VB Premier League elimination semi-final at Aussie Stadium on Saturday evening.