An outstanding defensive performance from Mounties proved to be the difference in a battle of the heavyweights, as they defeated the Newtown Jets 18-12 at Henson Park on Saturday afternoon.
While a host of players from both sides put in some gutsy individual efforts, it was barnstorming Mounties second-rower Mitch Barnett who put in another dominant display with two first half tries, while winger Kato Ottio offered his services prominently on the wing for the ladder leaders. For Newtown, it was Josh Cleeland who gave another classy performance in the number six jersey, bagging two tries and working well with Kurt Capewell who was also very strong in a losing outfit.
An unlikely error by Mitch Barnett in the opening set of the game allowed Newtown an opportunity to gain an early stanglehold in the top of the table clash, but some committed goal-line defence from the Mounties prevailed in a threatening opening 5 minutes from Newtown.
The first exchanges of the game were heavily dependent of both forward packs gaining valuable field position in an attempt to draw first blood in the brutal encounter, however both teams held their own in defence which limited either teams chance to take full advantage.
The Mounties were not doing themselves any favours in the opening 15 minutes of the game, with a host of schoolboy errors constantly inviting Newtown deep into their own half. The Jets took full advantage of the lacklustre start with five-eighth Josh Cleeland putting in a fantastic individual effort, after he dummied his way through some disjointed Mounties defence. Fa’amanu Brown converted the try, making the score 6-0 after 18 minutes.
Mounties quickly gained an opportunity to get revenge shortly after conceding their first, but it only eventuated into an 80-metre sprint from Newtown second-rower Kurt Capewell after he capitalised on a loose ball close to his own line. Some scrambling defence from the Mounties managed to chase him down 10 metres out from the try line, eventually pushing Matt Evans into touch after he was unable to beat his counterpart to the tryline.
Some terrible communication between the Jets players forced an error deep in their own half, and Mitch Barnett wasted no time in taking full advantage, barging his way through some flimsy defence to claim Mounties’ first points of the afternoon. A sideline conversion from Cameron Phelps levelled the scores at six apiece heading into half-time.
Mounties managed to claim another try straight after their first, after Barnett claimed his second try of the afternoon when he scooped up a neat grubber from Sam Williams - Mounties setting the score at 12-6 just before the break.
While the opening 40 wasn’t a reflection of a top-of-the-table clash, it was Mounties who managed to gain the upper hand at the break - with a converted try the only difference in what was otherwise an error-fuelled first half from both sides.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half had a much stronger start from both teams, which saw them manage to earn themselves some valuable field position in an attempt to claim the first try of second 40. Some more committed defence from Mounties was finally broken by Jets speedster Jordan Drew, who made a great run up the middle third only to be brought down 30 metres out from the opposition try line.
It came to the last 15 minutes and both sides were unable to crack respective defences despite working their way towards some golden opportunities late in the second half, however, setting up for a nail biting final 10 minutes in what was a hard-fought game from both ladder leaders.
It seemed as though Newtown finally had their chance to level the score, after Matt Evans burst onto a brilliant offload and raced away towards the right-hand corner, only to be tackled by fullback Zac Santo 20 metres out from the tryline. Moments later, Cleeland thought he had answered the prayers of the Newtown faithful, only for the referee to have ruled that he had knocked the ball on in his attempt to plant the ball down.
A 90-metre intercept from Mounties winger Kato Ottio in the dying stages was enough to seal the victory for the Mounties despite a second try to Cleeland right on fulltime, with the boys from Canberra eventually running out 18-12 victors and extending their lead on the top of the Intrust Super Premiership NSW ladder.
This article first appeared on NSWRL.com.au