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Jets hand Panthers biggest defeat in over 10 seasons

By Sam Kosack, NSWRL

The Newtown Jets produced a significant 44-6 upset over the Penrith Panthers at Henson Park on Saturday, handing the Panthers their biggest loss in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup competition in more than 10 seasons.

Off the back of three straight wins, Newtown flexed their premiership credentials as they ran out 38-point winners against a Panthers side that would have reclaimed first position with a win.

The Panthers entered the match with the best defensive record in the league, but you wouldn't have known it based on Newtown's attacking dominance.

In what has been a talking point of late, contact was made with halfback Niwhai Puru's leg on the first kick of the game, drawing a penalty and giving the Jets the ball 20 metres out from the try-line. From there, a simple crash play saw Newtown draw first points, with promising young prop Max Bradbury powering through multiple defenders to put the Jets 6-0 up after two minutes.

Fullback Liam Ison extended the Jets' lead in the 24th minute, accelerating through a gaping hole in the Penrith defence set up by some smart lead-up work. Puru took the lead out to 12 with an inch-perfect kick from the sideline.

Newtown were soaring by the 34th minute, increasing their lead by six once again. A beautiful cut-out pass sent winger Tom Rodwell flying down the south-eastern touchline, who grubbered back inside for centre Chris Vea'ila to outrun the Penrith defence and pounce on the bouncing ball.

A desperate, last-ditch Penrith try saver was all that prevented Rodwell from scoring in the corner on the stroke of halftime and extending the Jets' lead further, meaning the Jets went into the sheds 18-0 up.

The Jets began the second half the same way they did the first. Winger Samuel Stonestreet dived in the corner to finish off some slick ball movement that started on the opposite side of the field, giving Newtown a 22-0 lead.

Stonestreet had his second within five minutes, once again finishing off some fantastic ball movement from the Jets. For three tackles, Newtown had Penrith on the ropes but were unable to find a final pass given the impressive Panthers scrambling defence. But it was too much for the Penrith line to maintain, eventually cracking with Stonestreet capitalising. Puru converted for a 28-0 score-line.

The Jets had well and truly taken off by the 55th minute, with hooker Samuel Healey burrowing his way over. Vea'ila would nab his second seven minutes later, collecting a perfectly weighted grubber kick by second rower Billy Burns to take Newtown to 38.

Not to be held to nil, Penrith scored their first points in the 70th minute through prop Preston Riki. However, the game was paused for five minutes after the try as Jets prop Max Bradbury was badly injured attempting to stop Riki, having to be stretchered off.  

Newtown weren't too be done with yet, with Chris Vea'ila finishing off a length-of-the field effort to complete his hat-trick. Fullback Liam Ison caught a Penrith kick on the run, burning through defenders before finding Vea'ila on the 50-metre line, with the centre running the rest of the way to help Newtown reach the 40-point mark and complete the 44-6 win.

Talking Points

- The impact of Newtown bench forwards Salesi Ataata and Brad Fearnley was enormous. Penrith found it almost impossible to bring the pair down; their barnstorming runs giving the Jets momentum in every set.

- Jets fullback Liam Ison was electric in the first half. His speed and strong runs started Newtown's sets strongly, also scoring a try of his own and saving his team two separate errors on his try-line.

Key Moment

It was imperative Penrith scored first in the second half to begin to claw back Newtown's imposing halftime lead. However, Samuel Stonestreet's first try began a run of four Jets tries in 20 minutes, and well and truly ended any chance of a Penrith comeback.

What's Next?

Newtown will attempt to secure their fifth consecutive win against Parramatta Eels at CommBank Stadium in Round 13, but will have to do so off a challenging five-day turnaround.

Lead photo credit: Mario Facchini, mafphotography

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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