Mounties (1st) v Newtown Jets (4th) – Qualifying Final
Pepper Stadium, Saturday 3 September
Broadcast LIVE on SteeleSports.com.au
They’ve been two of the form teams all year and have already put on two thrilling battles – Mounties and the Jets look set to play out a blockbuster at Pepper Stadium.
Mounties have won six more games than Newtown this season and, as the rest of the competition have explained, are the undisputable team to beat in the finals series. The Jets, however, have pushed Mounties to the brink on two occasions and could consider themselves unlucky not to take even a single point from the Minor Premiers. A 90-metre Kato Ottio intercept in the dying stages proved the difference in the first encounter, with Mounties’ determination in defence keeping the Jets to one try in each half.
It was a far more open and high-scoring contest when they next met three weeks ago, with Mounties once again taking out the victory and securing a deserved Minor Premiership. Yet again, it was a late Mounties try – this time to Jarrad Kennedy with just a minute remaining – that sunk the Jets as the Sam Williams conversion reached the 30-28 scoreline. Neither the Mounties nor the Jets would have been happy to concede five tries that weekend – and having conceded 47 and 50 points since respectively, it has not been an ideal defensive end to the regular season.
Mounties, however, have proven time and time again that they know how to grind out a victory – or come from behind when needed. Newtown coach Greg Matterson summed up his opposition simply.
“They’re a pretty strong side with all-round depth and they know how to win,” Matterson told NSWRL.com.au. “They’ve won plenty of close ones.”
Mounties will miss skipper Sam Williams again this week and while last week was used to trial usual centre Brent Naden at five-eighth, Sam Duggan will move into the halves on Saturday. While Duggan’s combination with Maurice Kennedy and his outside backs will be vital to the result, the team will also be boosted by the big inclusions of Zac Santo, Brenko Lee and Shaun Fensom. The Jets will be without strike weapon Arana Taumata and will need to be on their game to book a place in the Preliminary Finals.
Where it will be won:
Given both teams’ recent lapses in defence, the side which can turn this form around will win the game. The Sydney Basin is also tipped to endure significant rainfall in the time leading up to the game, so discipline with and without the football will be key. If wet weather football does eventuate, expect the more seasoned halves pairing of Josh Cleeland and Nu Brown to build pressure against their opposition with their kicking game. A monster Mounties pack including Fensom, Jarrad Kennedy, Rhys Kennedy and Jeff Lima, of course, will be extremely valuable – especially in the likely wet conditions.
As mentioned above, the halves can and should take control of this game if it needs to be played in the wet. Brown is a classy and versatile player and his attacking flare has been recently rewarded with more NRL experience, but a no-frills, low-risk performance with an excellent kicking game will be required from he and Cleeland to starve Mounties of possession. On the other side, utility Duggan has played twice in the number six jersey this season, but will need to gel with Kennedy instantly to provide point-scoring opportunities at Pepper Stadium.
- Mounties: Zach Santo, Brenko Lee, Shaun Fensom
- Newtown: Jaline Graham, Saulala Houma, Kurt Kara
- Mounties: Jacob Mayer
- Newtown: Arana Taumata