Newtown halfback Daniel Mortimer steered the Jets to a 36-30 win over the Illawarra Cutters in their NSW Cup elimination final at WIN Jubilee Oval yesterday.
Mortimer scored two tries and kicked six goals from six attempts for an unblemished record with the boot as the Jets progress to the next round of the finals series.
While the Cutters' campaign is over, to compete in the finals in their first season in the NSW Cup has been a tremendous achievement and provides a sound foundation to build on for the future.
Cutters fullback Michael Lett who joined Illawarra earlier in the season from Canterbury-Bankstown, collected a treble of tries to bring his total for the year to 31 and winger Bronx Goodwin kicked five from six.
"It feels just like home at the Cutters but I'm very disappointed that we lost," Lett said.
"It was good to score three tries but it doesn't really mean nothing when we were behind on the scoreboard.
"Back to the drawing board and look forward to next season."
In an absorbing contest, the scores were level 12-12 at half-time before the Cutters skipped out to a 24-18 lead. The Jets took control in the final 11 minutes with three tries to be 36-24 ahead, then inside the last minute Lett nailed his third try to cut the deficit to six.
But it was all too late.
"As I said to the guys we've come a long way in a short period. It's our first year and to make the finals was good," Cutters coach Paul McGregor said.
"I just thought we had a group that could go a little bit further and they played really well. We managed to put ourselves in front by 10 points there at one stage but we knew what was coming.
"They had a couple of interchanges to bring their big blokes back on and [Nafe] Seluini has been playing a bit of first grade [NRL].
"We just needed to weather that. But soon as they come on they scored, then scored again, put us under all sorts of pressure and our line wasn't getting forward.
"In general I thought it was a quality game of footy. Just on the day when we needed it the most in the last 10 minutes they had all the momentum, we didn't control it and we ran out of troops."
Newtown led 12-0 in the first 10 minutes with tries to Mortimer and centre Peni Tagive before a stepping, sniping run by Cutters captain and halfback Jeremy Smith led to Lett's first try in the 15th minute.
Illawarra applied enormous territorial pressure and Lett stretched out in the 34th minute for his second. Goodwin added the extras to lock up the scores 12-all at the interval.
A decision to take a tap penalty in front of the posts paid off for Illawarra when Jarrad Hickey barged through to score in the 47th minute, Goodwin's conversion taking them ahead 18-12.
A beautifully timed short pass from Smith sent David Gower galloping over in the 52nd minute for a 10 point lead, but Newtown hit back when Seluini slipped through in the 59th minute.
Goodwin's penalty goal in the 63rd minute made it 24-18 until the momentum shifted dramatically to the Jets, with tries to second-rower Jack Bosden (69min), Mortimer (72min) and Saulala Houma (78min).