Jets withstand Hunters’ storm

THE Ipswich Jets survived the onslaught of a PNG team that brought its own support by the thousands, a cruel injury toll and a second-half storm to win their Queensland Cup clash yesterday. The Jets won 25-12 but the game was much closer than that, with the visitors making the early running. PNG led 12-0 midway through the first half as their enthusiasm with the ball proved hard to stop. It was being fed by a parochial pro-PNG crowd, which was the biggest for a Jets game at the North Ipswich Reserve since the 2008 Queensland Cup grand final. Not helping the Jets was a knee injury to veteran prop Tyson Lofipo that forced him from the field in the 11th minute. He didn’t return. Despite that Ipswich hit back through skipper Keiron Lander in the 27th minute. With three minutes remaining before the break the Jets got a penalty in kicking range and the call from co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker on the sideline was to take the two points. It was something the Hunters passed up on several times in the opening half. Wes Conlon kicked the goal and the Jets trailed 12-8 at the break. Ipswich began the second half the way they wanted with a try to winger Kurt Capewell after two minutes to hit the lead for the first time. The Jets were in front but five-eighth Ollie Olds was not having the best of times. Regularly his passes missed the mark, until the Jets coaches replaced him with Josh Cleeland at pivot 10 minutes after the break. That was followed by a piece of Wes Conlon magic that put the Jets into a commanding position. Conlon received the ball in the middle of the ruck, 30m out from the Hunters’ tryline. He ran one way across field, then back the other, before straightening, breaking through three tackles to help put centre Nemani Valekapa over. “That’s me trying to look for a hole,” Conlon said of his unpredictability. “When something opens up, there’s my play. If not I take the tackle and try to get a quick play the ball. I’m loving it. “Ben and Shane tell me to play how I want to play.” Why wouldn’t they when he can produce tries from nothing. Dane Phillips added a field goal to put the match out of the Hunters’ reach as the rain hit. It came down like a New Guinean typhoon but it brought no comfort to the visitors. The Jets were rewarded for the tenacity of their defence. They forced errors from their opponents when under threat with big tackles. It wore the visitors down and by the end of the match they were regularly making unforced mistakes, preventing the sort of comeback that earned them the draw the week before against Easts. “We just had to weather the storm at the start,” Conlon said. “We knew it would open up. “They threw everything at us.” Conlon admitted the Hunters asked some very different questions of the Jets, compared with most opponents. “Just their flair and attack,” Conlon said. “They really want to make that play and can score from anywhere.” With Conlon and prop Rod Griffin both spending an extended period on the sideline injured, the Jets resources were severely tested. That they finished far the better team spoke volumes for their character. “We stick by each other,” Conlon said. State of play Ipswich Jets 25 (Kurt Capewell, Nemani Valekapa, Sam Martin, Keiron Lander tries; Wes Conlon 3, Brendon Marshall goals; Dane Phillips field goal) def PNG Hunters 12 (Dion Aiye, Timothy Lomai tries; Roger Laka 2 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.