Newtown�s quest for a place in the 2005 VB Premier League grand final ended with a hard-fought 24-14 loss to Parramatta, in the second preliminary final played at Telstra Stadium on Sunday. That final score-line doesn�t fully reflect just how close this elimination match really was, with a number of lineball refereeing decisions that had an influence on the final outcome.
This was a tough, brutal showdown with forward confrontations and crunching body-hits the equal of those seen in any NRL competition match this season. Despite the obvious disappointment involved in bowing out one game short of the grand final, the Newtown Jets of 2005 went out on a combative and proud note, knowing that they had taken the competition�s minor premiers right to the wire.
Parramatta had led 12-2 midway through the first half, but the Jets turned on a superb try in the 33rd minute involving captain Russell Aitken, centre Ryan McGoldrick, prop James Stosic and finally Aitken again. Nathan Merritt converted, with Newtown going in to the half-time break 12-8 in arrears.
In such a tight contest, critical errors made all the difference in the second half. Two promising Jets attacking opportunities early in the second half came to nought through fundamental errors. If there was one clear distinction between the two teams, it was Parramatta�s superior kick/chase game, in particular the Eels greater ability to trap Newtown ball-carriers in their own in-goal zone. Parramatta�s third try, an almost freakish length of the field effort that originated from behind their own try-line, came about because an Eel ball-carrier was not wrapped up behind his own try-line.
The Eels looked to be in command with a 24-8 lead twenty minutes from full-time, but the Jets were still right in the fight. A great try involving giant Newtown second-rower Clifford Manua and winger John Sinisa saw utility back Geoff Johnson score with fifteen minutes of play remaining, and a possible try to centre Jardine Bobongie three minutes later was disallowed due to a marginal forward pass ruling.
On a day when all the forwards tried hard, Newtown�s best were Kevin Kingston, Sam Isemonger, Tommy Gemmell and Luke Harlen. Big-hearted front-rower David Thompson gave of his customary best in what was probably his last game for the Jets. Team captain Russell Aitken and centre Ryan McGoldrick continued their strong finals form, and were well supported by Geoff Johnson and John Sinisa. Centre Beau Scott had withdrawn earlier in the week due to a broken scaphoid bone, and his absence didn�t assist the Jets in such a vital game.
At the end of what has been Newtown�s best-ever season in the strong VB Premier League competition, coach Colin Murphy praised his players for their tremendous personal contributions and their professionalism during the joint-venture between the Newtown and Cronulla-Sutherland clubs. Murphy also thanked the many Newtown supporters who had turned out in such strong numbers at all three of the Jets� finals appearances, and who had also contributed to the team�s excellent record in home games at Henson Park in 2005.
Photo supplied courtesy of Gary Sutherland Photography. Newtown�s top points-scorer in 2005, Nathan Merritt, goes close to scoring in Sunday�s preliminary final against Parramatta at Telstra Stadium.