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Sharks prevail in thrilling rain sodden affair

June 22 2013

Henson Park, Marrickville,

New South Wales

by Jodie Newell

Anyone who has played sport with an eye to participating at higher levels are always told by their coaches, practise makes perfect. Good players are often spoken about in terms of how hard they work on the training track.

The results of such work was on display at Henson Park on Saturday, where French import and now Cronulla Sharks kicker Tony Gigot nailed a difficult, angled conversion kick in the first half during awful, rain sodden conditions. That kick proved to be the deciding factor in an outstanding game of wet weather rugby league between the reigning premiers Newtown and current competition leaders Cronulla.

Gigot told us after his sides thrilling 2 point win over the Newtown Jets that he had worked hard at training during the week on his kicking skills "I trained a lot this week, because the kicker, Chad Townsend is out injured. I was a kicker in France so i'm used to this"

The former Catalan Dragon stand off’s crucial kick capped off some tough play from his Cronulla team mates against a determined Newtown. Throw in the awful weather conditions that saw the rare sight of the Henson Park lights being switched on at 4pm and the conversion was all the more valuable. Every ball was fought for, play around the ruck demanded sure hands and tackles from both teams were punishing. Newtown definitely challenged the unbeaten Sharks. They took the game right up to them and did not look intimated by the competition leaders.

“Everyone is trying to beat us and that’s the way it should be”

- Cronulla Sharks coach Tony Herman

The Jets set the tone of the game in the first five minutes with a determined try from Saulala Houma who made good use of excellent field position on the back of a penalty to score under the posts. Chris Taripo made sure of the kick. 6-0 Jets.

In previous weeks, Cronulla have been able to storm back into a game and overpower their opponents, but with the adverse weather conditions and determined play from Newtown, the battle to get back wasn't going to be easy.

Jets Brad Barrett, Ray Moujalli and in particular Kurt Kara were solid in their tackles. They made the Sharks earn every inch of yardage. For Cronulla, Tyrone Peachy made several threatening runs as did the big number 8 in Bryce Gibbs.

The Sharks hard work would soon pay off when Stewart Mills made it over the tryline. It was backed up by a superb kick from Tony Gigot. It was taken on an angle and in constant rain, he slotted it through the uprights, 7 minutes prior to the half time siren.

Newtown were determined to go to the break in front. Brad Barrett took full advantage of a handling error by Cronulla and scored a dogged try. Taripo matched the skill of Gigot and slotted home the extras. The Bluebaggers went into the sheds with a well earned lead at 12-6.

Cronulla began the half better and were soon back in the game when Tupou Sopoaga scored a try. Gigot took the kick for the extras on a slightly less difficult angle than the last attempt and made it. The game was now tied at 12-12 with no let up in the slippery conditions.

The Sharks were characteristically  stepping up a gear and were soon able to post another try. This time Tyrone Peachey was able to sneak in under the posts. Tony Gigot made no mistake with the conversion. Cronulla now lead 18-12 in the worsening weather.

To Newtown's credit they did not give in and gave everything. Even the small, but vocal crowd at Henson got involved with rival supporters chanting from the King George V stand "Newtown, Newtown, Newtown" and  “Cronulla, Cronulla, Cronulla" with the rain pelting down. It was a good old fashioned Sydney winter rugby league stoush by two willing opponents.

The last 20 minutes was a hard slog for both teams. Henson Park took on a surreal sight with the lights switched on against a back drop of stark afternoon afternoon skies punctuated with low flying passenger planes making a perilous descent into the murky rainclouds towards Mascot airport. Like the traffic in the sky, both teams headed for the final destination of the game with full commitment.

Newtown's Tinirau Arona kept the Jets hopes alive with a dogged try with 5 minutes remaining. Jets kick taker ChrisTaripo was unable to convert and the Jets were tantalisingly 2 points away from the lead.

The last five minutes was a roller coaster ride for both teams. Handling errors and penalties were all in play. With minutes remaining the Jets were awarded a penalty and had a gettable shot at goal from around the 30, but elected to take the tap. Thanks to a determined Cronulla defence they were kept out and the Sharkies ran out slim winners by 2 points and kept their  2013 unbeaten run intact at 15-0.

Considering the conditions, both teams could take plenty out of the result in terms of commitment and the ability to get the job done. In the end it was Gigot's accuracy that proved the difference. For Newtown, it was definitely a winnable game. They showed that the Sharks are mortal and will have plenty of confidence if and when they meet Cronulla in September.

For the Sharks the pressure doesn't end when this weekend they face the Auckland Vulcans away for what should be another tough assignment. On Saturday, Newtown go to Mt Pritchard Sports Ground to play the in-form Mounties who are currently sitting in the top eight.

The heavy, wet weather playing conditions on Saturday were the worst seen in Sydney for over a decade

image: 2013 NewellMediaGroup

Final score:  Cronulla Sharks 18 defeated Newtown Jets 16

Tries: Sharks : S Mills, T Peachey, T Sopoaga

Tries: Jets : S Houma, B Barrett, T Arona

Conversions: Sharks :  T Gigot 3/3

Conversions: Jets : C Taripo 2/3

Referee: Michael Laverty

Touch Judges :  Jay Barlow Scott Shepard

At Henson Park

Attendance: 8972

+ PHOTO GALLERYJets_v_Sharks_Photo_Gallery_2013.htmlJets_v_Sharks_Photo_Gallery_2013.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0
  1. BulletNewtown Director and Media Officer Glen “Bumper” Dwyer wasn't happy with the atrocious weather conditions that surely kept away a big crowd from Henson Park. Bumper quite rightly pointed out that the Jets are a stand alone team and need numbers at their games to pay the bills. Here’s hoping we don't get too many days like Saturday. The official Jets Twitter account tweeted during the week that ground announcer John Lynch said it was the worst day he’d seen at Henson since 2000.

  1. BulletFor the fans who were there it is a game they will remember for the commitment and skill displayed by both teams. It also showcased just how tough the NSW Cup competition is played. It isn't a game of patter-cake that’s for sure!

  1. BulletASADA officials were observed in the sheds requesting samples of players, including French import Tony Gigot of whom we spoke with after the game. His post game comments have been keenly followed by the rugby league fraternity back home in France. Was a pleasure speaking with Gigot, who played for the Catalan Dragons. We spotted Roosters head coach Trent Robinson having a friendly chat after the game, Sharks coach Shane Flanagan was also in attendance. No second hand info for the these blokes, they want the latest rugby league recon first hand which is good to see.

  1. BulletDespite the small crowd, other interesting rugby league luminaries in attendance was Steve McNamara, coach of the England Rugby League team and Dave Trodden, CEO of the NSWRL. They surely would have been impressed with the quality displayed on Saturday.

  1. BulletThe Henson Park experience was great again on Saturday.The way the crowd cheered on both teams names in the shocking conditions gave you a sense of what it may have been like on a typical day back in the old NSWRL days. Bumper Farrell would have enjoyed the view from upstairs, maybe he was the one pouring the bucket of water over Henson field to make the game more interesting!

The other good thing at Henson Park is the canteen prices. A gold coin for coffee and a pie for under $5 makes it an affordable day at a quality rugby league fixture The Jets club should be applauded for making it so.

  1. BulletNewtown Jets stalwart John Trad was spotted wearing a 2005 Jets finalist medal. Good to see Traddy wearing and displaying instead it of it being locked away in a vault!. When John wasnt busy doing laps on the bike, he was running onto the ground with a shovel of soil as requested by referee Michael Laverty to cover a popped up sprinkler head. Trad of all trades!

The Henson Park lights were switched on due to the dark, wet conditions