The Sydney Airport Jets stormed home to an eleventh-hour victory over the Balmain Tigers in yet another Henson Park thriller on Saturday. Played in front of one of the season�s biggest crowds, Newtown won this VB Premier League match by 34-26 after having trailed by 22-6 at half-time. The Jets maintained their unbeaten record in Premier League matches at Henson Park this year and also won the Trevor Ryan-Neil Pringle Shield, the trophy contested annually between the two inner-western clubs.
Newtown�s second half comeback was based on improved team discipline and ball control. The Jets conceded no penalties at all in the second half, missed fewer tackles and completed their sets more effectively in turning the game around. Most of all, this relatively youthful side showed an admirable combative spirit in running up 28 points to 4 in the second half.
Veteran Jets front-rower David Thompson was outstanding, leading his young team-mates by fearless example in a real �Captain Blood� performance. Forwards Kevin Kingston, Cameron Ciraldo, Tommy Gemmell and Clifford Manua all had big second halves, while youngsters Jon Green, Luke Harlen, Jacob Selmes and Luke Douglas really rose to the challenge and will be better players for the experience.
Newtown made it a popular home-ground double in beating the Jim Beam Cup competition leaders Windsor by 32-22 after leading 14-8 at the break. The Jets appeared to have self-destructed early in the second half when they conceded three tries, but in similar style to the Premier League outcome, the boys rallied and staged a disciplined, professional fightback, regaining the lead late in the game to keep their finals hopes alive. Jets statistician and team analyst John Little is adamant that the club�s first class gymnasium facilities and the quality of the coaching and training staff have been integral to the number of gutsy come-from-behind victories this season.
The Jets� Jim Beam Cup team was greatly boosted by the return of hard-case front-rowers David Buckley and Lafi Manua and the continued top form of big David Vial. Second rower Rimini Reweti scored the Jets� match-sealing try and was again one of the best forwards. Former Knights and Kurri halfback Ryan Dickson impressed on his debut and Ricky Roberts and Wissam El Masri scored vital tries.
Newtown�s Group 11 affiliate club the Parkes Spacemen lost at home to the Narromine Jets by 26-4, and now face a tough away assignment against Manildra next weekend.
Newtown has another bye in the Jim Beam Cup competition this coming weekend, but the Sydney Airport Jets are back again at Henson Park next Saturday (6th August), when they host fellow 1908 foundation club North Sydney in the VB Premier League at 3.00pm. This game also doubles as the final leg of the 2005 Frank Hyde Shield series, and will be preceded by the Women�s State of Origin showdown between NSW and Queensland at 1.30pm.
Photo courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography.