Now or never northern trip
THE Ipswich Jets will need to overcome a dreadful run of away games in order to record their fourth-straight win against the Northern Pride this weekend.
A victorious trip to Townsville has been a shining light for the Jets, who have won just three games from seven on the road in 2016.
The defending premiers were hit hard by injuries at the start of the season, but with four wins from their last five games, the Jets have reinvigorated their title defence hopes.
Ipswich’s return to form has largely been on the back of their Reserve grade replacements Michael Purcell, Ben White, Mikaere Beattie and Chris Ash.
As captain of the Jets BRL side, Ash has combined with his Intrust Super Cup counterpart Dane Phillips in the halves.
With the Jets riding high after their third-straight win over Central Queensland, Ash hoped to keep the winning feeling alive.
“I’m just happy to still be there in the side,” Ash said.
“Beattie has been killing it at hooker but it’s going to be really tough when Landon comes back from injury. Ben and Shane will have some tough decisions to make.
“It’s good to have some boys stepping up from the lower grades. I’m just enjoying my time with the boys and hopefully we can get a few more wins along the way.”
Pride broke their hoodoo at North Ipswich Reserve with a two-point win over the Jets earlier in the season.
This time it will be Ipswich who need to overcome a seven year drought in Cairns. The home side have an eight-game winning streak against the Jets at Barlow Park and have lost just two home games this season.
Like most opposition sides this season, the Jets have scored seven more tries than the Pride but have also let in six more defensively.
Ah Wang is the danger man in the Pride attack. He ranks equal-second alongside Darren Nicholls in the Intrust Super Cup’s leading point scorers with 142 individual points.
With such a weapon on the wing, Ash knows the Jets will need another strong performance from their big men Sam Martin, Nat Neale and Jesse Roberts who were instrumental against the Capras.
Neale and Roberts provided 10 off-loads between them, while Martin worked tirelessly in attack to produce six tackle breaks from eight runs, and also making 13 tackles and zero misses in defence.
“I think we are starting to click and play the footy people really enjoyed watching last year,’’ he said.
“It’s all off the back of our defence. When our energy in defence is good our attack has been going well.”
With their leading try-scorer Carlin Anderson out with a broken jaw, Jets co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker have found a ready replacement in Michael Purcell.
The Charleville speedster scored five tries in two straight games for the BRL side before stepping up to Intrust Super Cup to produce back-to-back doubles against the Blackhawks and Capras.
Playing alongside an equally dangerous Wes Conlon at fullback, Purcell could prove the man to break open Pride’s defence.
With both teams on seven wins each, the Jets can’t afford to lose tomorrow’s game if they want to keep their finals hopes alive.