If you ever want to find out the character of a rugby league team, then you need to see them when things are going against them.
Today in front of 3000 fans, the Ipswich Jets got off to a poor start after conceding early tries to Papua New Guinea Hunters duo Timothy Lomai and Dion Aiye.
Trailing 12-0, the Jets soon found themselves down to 16 players after 15 minutes due to a season-ending Tyson Lofipo knee injury. They then had to contend with a storm that would be more fitting at the ‘Gabba in December than the North Ipswich Reserve in April.
If ever there was a game of differing styles, this was it.
The Hunters rely on big men with offloading skills, while the Jets smaller men call on speed and changes of direction. All week the Jets had been put on red alert to stop the offloads of the big skilful Hunters.
Most times when the Jets find themselves behind it is captain Keiron Lander who finds what his side needs. Again today he was his team’s first try scorer when the Jets needed it most, diving over to the left of the post and opening the Jets’ day.
The first half was a tight contest with both sides threatening to crack but just not able to find the right option. The Jets paid respect to the Hunters’ defence by taking the two points right on half time and the scoreboard showed the Hunters up 12-8 at the break.
Ipswich Jets coaches Ben and Shane Walker spoke about patience at half time and making sure they stuck to their up tempo plan to tire out the big Hunters’ players.
The second half started with the Jets winning the ball back off a planned short kick off and from there the home team had the lead for the first time when Kurt Capewell went over near the posts for a 14-12 advantage.
Soon after, Ipswich’s flying Fijian Nemani Valekapa capitalised on some brilliant Conlon attacking magic. Conlon busted the Hunters straight up the middle, beating players and looking around for support.
He found his team mates lined up on the left and Valekapa went over in the corner to put the Jets in front 18-12 after 54 minutes.
The in-form Dane Phillips added a point with seven minutes to go to provide the Jets with some breathing space at 19-12.
In driving rain, Ipswich back-rower Sam Martin iced the win with a try with four minutes left to complete a memorable 25-12 win in front of the one of the club’s biggest home crowds in years.
The Jets now have the week off before facing the Northern Pride, while the PNG Hunters will play the Tweed Head Seagulls.
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.