THE Absolute Enterprises Mackay Cutters got the monkey off their backs and secured their first victory of the 2016 season with a come-from-behind victory over the Ipswich Jets at BB Print Stadium Mackay.
With a raucous home crowd behind them, the Cutters were eager to match the Jets’ frenetic pace as the game began, and an early penalty sent them on the attack. Mackay opened their account when Leonati Feiloakitau-Fetuani latched onto a short ball and muscled his way over to score from short range to give the home side critical first points.
The Jets response was swift, turning the pressure of back-to-back sets into points when Tyson Lofipo ran onto a grubber kick to the in goal to level the game. The see-sawing battle continued when Mackay’s Josh Chudleigh found open space off a short ball and Jordan Pereira found himself on the scoreboard off the ensuing play the ball, as quick hands put him over in the corner.
Down 10-6, the Jets were looking turn the tide in their favour, and they did so with their trademark razzle-dazzle style of play that saw Josh Damen score two quick-fire tries to put his team ahead, before Billy McConachie capped off Ipswich’s surge to ascendency by sprinting clear through the middle of the park to push the lead out to 24-10.
Desperate to not let the game out of reach, the Cutters threw everything they had at Ipswich as the first half wound down. Liam Taylor finally found a gap in the Jets defensive line with seconds to spare, scoring and converting his own try from the sideline to give the Cutters some hope heading into the sheds at 24-16.
Just as they did in the first half; it was Mackay crossing for first points in the second half as well when Regan Verney planted the ball down off a grubber kick to bring his side to within a try of their opponents.
With the Cutters closing fast, Ipswich needed to score next, and they managed to do so off a curving grubber kick to the in goal that somehow evaded the hands of several Cutters players, Haydan Lipp being the man to officially ground the ball to give the Jets a 10-point buffer.
But the comfortable Ipswich lead was short-lived when fringe NRL centre Tautau Moga spied a gap in the sliding defence and stormed his way past two tacklers to score a momentum-shifting try.
A costly error close to their own try line had Ipswich in real trouble when a swirling Taylor bomb was dropped cold, and Mackay found themselves with back-to-back sets and a chance to level the scores.
With the crowd in full voice, it was Braden Uele crashing over under the posts to level the scores at 30-30, before Taylor found the ball landing in his lap off a fortunate bounce from a towering bomb just minutes later, and the Cutters had taken control of the match 36-30.
The Jets showed their steely resolve as the pressure mounted, and they were able to return serve in their desperate search for points when a chip kick to the in goal skimmed off a Cutters hand and Dane Phillips dove full stretch to plant the ball down inches inside the dead ball line to level the game with meagre minutes remaining.
With the clock bleeding down and a draw beckoning, the Cutters went to the sky once more in search of a last gasp escape. They got their wish when the ball spilled forwards from Josh Robinson’s hands and into his own player for an accidental offside penalty.
Taylor found himself the hero of Mackay when he slotted the penalty conversion to put the Cutters in front, with his side then holding firm in the frantic dying seconds to secure the victory.
Mackay coach Dave Simpson praised his team’s resolve in finally getting their first win of the season against their high-calibre opponents.
“It was a very quality win,” he said. “Over the past few games, we would sort of distance ourselves from the contest when it got tough and not get back into the grind, but the way the boys stuck in tonight was really good.”
MACKAY CUTTERS 38 (Liam Taylor 2, Leonati Feiloakitau-Fetuani, Jordan Pereira, Regan Verney, Tautau Moga, Braden Uele tries; Liam Taylor 5 goals) def IPSWICH JETS 36 (Nat Neale 2, Joshua Damen, Richard Pandia, William McConnachie, Dane Phillips tries; Hayden Lipp 6 goals) at BB Print Stadium, Mackay.