It may not have showcased their trademark flair; but the Ipswich Jets did just enough to keep their season alive and steal a spot in this year’s Intrust Super Cup finals from the PNG Hunters after producing a hard-fought win over Norths Devils to close out Round 24.
After the CQ Capras did them a huge favour by downing the PNG Hunters on Saturday; all the Jets had to do to claim a final appearance was win.
However, they left it until the second half to kick into gear and claim the lead when Jayden Connors went over for his second of the day – and from there they were able to keep the Devils at bay.
- See the final 2018 ladder --> Intrust Super Cup ladder
It wasn’t an easy feat however, with the home side spurned on by a generous crowd despite the weather due to their Old Boys Day.
In an entertaining opening to the game, it was the Devils who crossed first with Zach Strasser – who was one of the best for the Devils – diving over in the right corner after some clever lead-up play from his five-eighth Todd Murphy who feigned an offload, but instead headed to his right before passing to his centre to run in and score the opening try.
Their lead though was short-lived after Jets speedster Connors ran almost the length of the field after taking an intercept chance.
Marmin Barba successfully line-up up the conversion to give the Jets a 6-4 with 26 minutes to go until the break.
Momentum shifted from side to side; with Norths looking to capitalise out to their left with representative centre Gehamat Shibasaki looking to combine with his winger Paul Ulberg; only for the play to break down a couple of times with the ball going out over the sideline.
After some end-to-end play; they were finally able to find success with their plan with three minutes left until halftime with Troy Dargan passing wide to Shibasaki who threw a long ball to his winger who ducked under defenders to score out wide to left-hand side.
The conversion attempt was again waved away; meaning the Devils led the Jets 8-6 at halftime.
While the Jets had look surprisingly disjointed in the first half given the magnitude of the game (no doubt in part caused by the arm injury sustained by winger Sam Caslick mid-way through the half); their defence had been fairly strong and they were able to continue to apply pressure to the Devils in the second half despite being guilty of producing a few errors.
After shutting down an early attacking play down the right side from young Devils winger Herbie Farnworth; the Jets were able to score through Connors who went in under the posts after Huskie Teutau did all the hard work with a strong run that saw him bounce off defenders.
They went back-to-back when Michael Purcell picked up a loose ball after the Devils coughed it up in attack.
No one was able to catch the fullback who joined retiring Wynnum Manly stalwart Daniel Ogden as the leading try scorers for the Intrust Super Cup regular season with 19 to their name.
Barba converted again to put the Jets up 18-8 and seemingly in control.
Things did get tense however when experienced forward Sam Tagataese crashed over in the 57th minute; with Farnworth’s successful conversion narrowing the scores to 18-14 to give the Devils hope.
But the Jets were able to take control with two more successful penalty goals from Barba in the 63rd and 68th minutes pushing the scores out to 22-14; giving them more breathing space against a Devils side that never shirked the contest.
Next Saturday, the Jets will travel to Townsville to take on the Blackhawks in an elimination final and they will be looking to lift their intensity in what it set to be a high-octane Channel 9 TV match (kick off at 1.10pm).
There may also be concern for key contributor Connors who came off with nine minutes to go with what appeared to be an injury to his right leg.
IPSWICH JETS 22 (Jayden Connors 2, Michael Purcell tries; Marmin Barba 5 goals) def NORTHS DEVILS 14 (Zach Strasser, Paul Ulberg, Sam Tagataese tries; Herbie Farnworth goal) at Bishop Park.