IPSWICH Jets coach Glenn Lazarus said the proverbial penny has finally dropped for his error-prone players who snatched a thrilling come-from-behind victory over a Northern Pride outfit laced with more than 500 games of NRL experience.
The Jets celebrated like it was a grand final win. The players’ arms stretched to the heavens and hands wrapped around team mates, as the siren sounded and the North Ipswich Reserve scoreboard read 22-16.
For most of the match, the scoreboard painted a dismal picture as the Jets continued to make simple errors and the Pride capitalised to lead 16-0 with the finish line in sight.
Despite losing three matches on the trot and fielding two 19-year-olds in key positions, the Jets fought back brilliantly.
Lazarus said the comeback was sparked after the Jets started the second half with back-to-back sets, a rarity this season.
“When the first few sets in the second half were well structured, I think the penny finally dropped,” Lazarus said. “The guys realised that playing with the ball is easier than playing without it.
“It was a tremendous win, great stuff. One of the best wins I’ve been involved in with this club.”
AJ Gilbert turned the match for the Jets.
Having more brains than brawn – which he has copious amounts of – Gilbert showed superb ball skills to set up one try and score another himself.
The fightback began when Gilbert, whose daughter Zara had her first immunisation shots last Thursday, off-loaded mid-tackle to Callum Waldrum who threw a fine cut-out pass for Smith Samau to score.
Five minutes later, Luke Walker scored from a Waldrum bomb before prop Tyson Lofipo barged over next to the posts.
With seven minutes remaining, Gilbert slid through the Pride’s edge defence, scooting 10 metres to give the Jets a six-point lead which they gamely held on to.
Playing just his second match at five-eighth, regular winger Smith Samau also starred, bringing back the torpedo kick.
“Its funny because Smith (Samau) always mucks around at training with booming kicks and I asked him if he could do it in a match and he said ‘of course’ and he proved today that he could,” Lazarus said.
Samau said the Jets’ comeback began because the team was so frustrated at their efforts going unrewarded.
“We were just sick of losing,” Samau said. “I was over it and so were the boys. We really wanted to win out there today.”
Gilbert said he was beginning to feel confident as a rugby league player after switching from the Queensland Reds rugby union team during the off-season.
“There’s still a lot of improvement left in me but I just want to provide a spark when I’m on and gee the boys up,” he said.
The Jets are now entrenched in middle of the Queensland Cup table. They face the unpredictable Wynnum Manly at Wynnum on Sunday.
Ipswich Jets 22 (Luke Walker, Smith Samau, Tyson Lofipo, AJ Gilbert tries; Brendon Marshall 3 goals) d Northern Pride 16 (Chey Bird, Rod Griffin, Carl Webb tries; Chey Bird 2 goals).