Cutters grit enough to ground Jets

RUGBY LEAGUE

It wasn’t pretty and sometimes ineffective, but a rusty Illawarra Cutters won’t mind after clawing past Newtown to record back-to-back NSW Cup victories for the first time this season.

After stunning reigning premiers Cronulla seven days earlier, the Cutters struggled to get out of second gear against the Jets, but still retained the Tom Kirk Cup at WIN Stadium on Saturday.

‘‘I thought somewhere in seven days we lost a lot of our attacking shape,’’ Cutters coach Ian Millward said after the 24-14 victory.

‘‘Last week we were nine out of 10 in our shape.

‘‘I thought we were gritty and defensively we were solid. They only scored two tries from kicks and one right on the bell.

‘‘Six times in the first half we dropped the ball inside their 10-metre line. We just struggled with our completion rate, but defensively we were strong.’’

Michael Witt played his first game since dislocating his shoulder for the Dragons in round one, while Jack de Belin was a standout in a 40-minute stint – backing up less than 24 hours after featuring for St George Illawarra against the Broncos.

And perhaps it was no surprise to see four players contracted to the NRL squad score for the hosts.

Will Matthews was the first of those, slicing through the Newtown defensive line near halfway before standing up fullback Shannon Gallant.

Despite a strong breeze at their backs, it was only Craig Garvey’s spinning effort close to half-time which fired the Cutters to the lead after Rhyse Martin had touched down for the visitors.

Nathan Green padded the Cutters’ lead early in the second half before Jack Siejka snuck under his guard to ground another Arana Taumata kick to reduce the deficit to eight.

Illawarra then withstood a mountain of Newtown pressure, before Josh Ailaomai, already put on report for a late hit against his old club earlier in the game, settled the result. He sent Matthews screaming through a gap before backing up to have the favour returned.

‘‘I thought we took it for granted with the breaks we were making early [the points] would come naturally,’’ Millward said.

‘‘We still had to work hard.

‘‘I didn’t think we were under much threat defensively and it was more a matter of getting our attack right.’’

ILLAWARRA CUTTERS 24 (Will Matthews, Craig Garvey, Nathan Green, Josh Ailaomai tries; Michael Witt 4 goals) defeated NEWTOWN JETS 14 (Rhyse Martin, Jack Siejka, Shannon Gallant tries; Chris Taripo goal) at WIN Stadium.

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