The Ipswich Jets got their Mal Meninga season off to a flying start by scoring late in the second half to claim a thrilling 26-22 victory over a gallant Townsville Blackhawks outfit at North Ipswich Reserve last Saturday.
The game was played under scorching conditions with the mercury soaring well above 30 degrees, but the temperature failed to impact on an enthralling game of football that saw the lead change hands on a number of occasions.
After sitting out the opening round due to a bye, the enthusiasm of the home side was evident as they scored twice in the first 10 minutes to produce a near-faultless half of football and lead 16-12 at the break.
Townsville rallied after the halftime interval and looked to have sealed the game when Quinlan Kelly crossed in the 57th minute, but Jets hooker Lochlan Turnbull would ensure the Jets had the final say when he crossed under the posts in the 65th minute to seal the game.
Jets coach Todd Riggs praised his side’s performance and was pleased with the character his team showed to regain the lead and hold off a Blackhawks side that refused to throw in the towel.
“The boys shot out to an early lead and Townsville came back and they wrestled the ascendency off us mid-way through the second half, so it was pleasing to see the boys come back and score a couple of tries and hang on for dear life in the last three minutes,” Riggs said.
Both sides played an attractive brand of football with sweeping shifts and second-phase play a feature throughout the match, but it was Ipswich’s measured flair and ball control that proved pivotal in the end result.
Despite the Jets being synonymous with an expansive brand of football, Riggs believes his side’s balance of expansive football coupled with a more traditional approach is proving effective.
“We take the best bits of the Intrust Super Cup side and meld that into what we’re doing so we do actively try and play some expansive footy, but we haven’t committed as fully to the Intrust Super Cup style because in Mal Meninga, if you drop too much footy then you’re under the pump,” Riggs said.
"We take the best bits of the Intrust Super Cup side and meld that into what we’re doing so we do actively try and play some expansive footy."
With Ipswich being such a large rugby league nursery which has produced the likes of Queensland Origin greats such as Allan Langer and the Walters brothers; Riggs believes the pathway a competition like the Mal Meninga Cup provides for the region is invaluable.
“It gives them a genuine pathway and that really is the key emphasis that they are all Ipswich kids and there is a pathway there for them from Mal Meninga through to the Intrust Super Cup,” he said.
Their opponents this week, the Western Mustangs, will be fresh after having the bye last week and will be looking to register their first win after having a 34-34 draw against the Victoria Thunderbolts in Round 1.
Coach Riggs is aware of the danger a side like the Mustangs will pose and is focused on overcoming a poor record against their opponents this weekend.
“We have a horrible record against the Western Mustangs over the past three or four years, so we have our sights set on putting in a good performance against those guys on Sunday up there,” he said.
The game will kick off on Sunday at 10.30am and be proceeded by a blockbuster day of rugby league that will see the Hastings Deering Colts match act as a curtain-raiser to the Titans v Dragons NRL Match at Clive Berghofer Stadium.