THE Ipswich Jets showed immense composure under pressure to close out a brilliant 32-24 win over Easts Tigers at North Ipswich Reserve.
There was plenty to like about the victory with Jets halves Josh Cleeland and Dane Phillips, along with hooker Matt Parcell, taking the game by the scruff of the neck when the scores were level at 24-all with 15 minutes remaining.
The bullocking runs of tough forward Billy McConnachie were a highlight, as was the swarming Jets defence on their line which repelled raid after raid by the giant Tigers forwards.
The Jets scored early after a precision Phillips bomb. Marmin Barba swooped on the loose ball and with a brilliant one-handed offload sent back-rower Sam Martin over out wide.
It was 10-nil after 20 minutes when Barba finished a scintillating move by centre Nemani Valekapa.
The Fijian flyer stepped and swerved with a finesse former Broncos centre Steve Renouf would have been proud of before throwing a slick ball to the ever- alert Barba.
With Easts ahead 16-12, it was a McConnachie surge that gave the Jets momentum.
An incisive burst by rangy back-rower Kurt Capewell saw him score out wide and Carlin Anderson convert to make it 18-16 to Ipswich.
Valekapa was at it again down the left soon after and his precision kick through was swooped on by Capewell as the Jets extended their lead to 22-16.
With minutes remaining, Ipswich led 26-24 and closed out the game beautifully when a brilliant dart by Parcell gave Ipswich field position.
Cleeland’s show and go bam- boozled the Easts defence to secure his side a deserved 32-24 win.
Jets co-coach Shane Walker was delighted by the way his side responded when the game was there for the taking.
“In previous years we haven’t really closed games out like that but as guys like Matty Parcell get older and more mature they are learning to do that,” Walker said.
“It was great to see Josh Cleeland really stand up. He came up with some big plays.
“He did a one-on-one strip at the end on the first tackle and then took them on with a show and go and just backed himself.
“We had showed him on Thursday night (at training) that the show and go was there for him to use.
“He had passed and passed and passed, but then made the crucial play. He is such an instinctual player.”
McConnachie was a revelation.
His 100 mile an hour runs were relentless.
Walker said the improvement in the Mt Isa product in recent seasons had been stunning.
“Billy really did stand up,” Walker said.
“He took all the hard runs that people don’t want to take. He used his footwork and used his skill.
“When he first got here we nearly had to sew a hessian bag onto the front of his jersey because he couldn’t hang onto the ball.
“We got his eyes checked by renowned sports optometrist Pat Gerry and he gave him some eye exercises to do over six weeks because he had a depth perception problem.
“Billy did all those exercises and worked hard his on his fitness and skills. He has been brilliant.”
McConnachie was the Phoenix Radio man of the match and lifted brilliantly in the absence of injured star Rod Griffin.
“I knew I had to step up with Rod out,” McConnachie said.
“I’d had two weeks off. I was suspended for a week and had another week off for the bye, so I was trying to get back into things.
“I’ve picked my game up.”
State of Play
Qld Cup Round 9: Ipswich Jets 32 (Kurt Capewell 2, Marmin Barba, Josh Cleeland, Sam Martin tries; Carlin Anderson 6 goals) def Easts 24 (Eddie Tautali, Richie Kennar, Tommy Butterfield, Jake Foster tries; Shaun Nona 4 goals) at North Ipswich Reserve.