After a disappointing season opener against the Penrith, Illawarra have turned things around with back-to-back wins, defeating a strong Newtown outfit 22-12 to retain the Tom Kirk Cup at WIN Stadium on Saturday.
The visitors struck first in the opening five minutes through centre Matt Evans, and led 6-0 at the half-hour mark after a penalty goal from Fa'amanu Brown.
Illawarra young-gun Jai Field scooped up a loose ball to race 80m downfield to score his side’s first try but left the field soon after with a hamstring injury. Shaun Nona added the extras to level up two points at six a piece at the break.
New recruit Josh Kerr, crashed over from close range immediately after the break to shift momentum back to the hosts with Nona converting to extend the lead to 12-6. Kerr went over for his second in near identical fashion soon after as the lead swelled to 18-6.
The bluebagger's were their own worst enemy, dropping plenty of ball, in turn gifting Illawarra good field position, where they would strike through back-rower Chris Lewis. Nona's perfect run with the boot came to an end, missing the goal to give the hosts a 22-6 lead heading into the final quarter.
The Jets had the bulk of the possession in the final stages, but couldn't find their way to the line until Leigh Higgins finally crossed out wide for what would be the last try of the game.
Brown quickly converted but it was too little too late with Illawarra running out winners 22-12. They will now shift their attention to their clash with the New Zealand Warriors at WIN Stadium next Saturday.