Swifts on attack early in well-drilled win over Jets
WHAT a cracking start to the 2021 Rugby League Ipswich A-Grade season.
Nine different try scorers from 2019 grand finalists Swifts and competition newcomers, the Ipswich/Rosewood Jets.
However, it was the returning Bluebirds who showed they will be a competitive force this year after taming the talented Jets 32-24 at Rosewood on Saturday night.
Swifts coach Wayne Finch summed it up perfectly watching his team secure an entertaining victory after sitting out last year's Volunteers Cup series.
"It was good attacking football,'' the Bluebirds stalwart said.
"I'm very happy, especially our first half. We played to what we planned for.
"We held our line tight and not letting them come through the middle of us.
"On the back of that we scored some good tries.''
Switching from fullback in previous seasons, Swifts Fijian winger Ratu Vatuinaruku topped the points tally with two tries and four goals on Saturday night.
Fullback Godfrey Okot also had a blinder with other Bluebirds tries scored by prop Harold Mosby, five-eight and captain Cameron Picker and hooker Isi Hafoka.
Swifts led 24-6 at halftime before the Phil Dennis coached Jets mounted a second half fightback.
Coming together for the first time in recent weeks, the Jets showed they will be a team to watch as they gel better.
Former Goodna strongman John Schwalger scored two tries. Other four-pointers came from Owen McCarron, Joel Hughes and Dominic Macumboy.
"We weren't completing sets in the second half and the Jets being such a quality side, they took advantage of it and come back at us,'' Finch said.
Finch praised substitute Jacob Sinn for a massive 40 tackle commitment in the second half.
That was a valuable effort after Swifts lost halfback Wilson Bennet at halftime with a hamstring injury.
Second rower Luke Rea was also sidelined one minute into the game with hand damage.
"He had a compound fracture of his finger so he had to go straight to hospital,'' the coach said.
While disappointed to see Rea needing surgery, Finch said Swifts had excellent depth this season having built a squad in November.
"We're very lucky. We've got some good boys out there and they are training hard,'' he said.
"It just showed last night. Our training is paying off.
"We know we can score tries. We've got some quality halves. We've got good hookers and Godfrey at fullback was amazing.
"Isi (Hafoka) having that Q-Cup experience brought something else to the team in defence and attack.''
Finch is working with assistant coach Shane Verrell.
He said Swifts had attracted 30-35 players to training early in the year, with a new influx of arrivals with matches resuming.
Swifts have retained a majority of the 2019 grand final side with some players yet to return.
Finch enjoys working with the club and players.
"I've met all my best friends through Swifts and (club president) Robbie Carr is my best friend,'' Finch said.
"It makes it easier to turn up to training when you've got blokes like that around the club.''
Finch is also delighted to have Picker captaining the side.
"He hasn't missed a training and he's a Swifts junior and he coaches the juniors at Swifts,'' Finch said.
"So we wanted to reward him with the captaincy of A-Grade this year.''
For respected coach Finch, having rugby league being played in 2021 was a huge positive.
He was pleased to see a decent crowd watch the first A-Grade game of the new season after Norths and Swifts were involved in the earlier games.
"It's good for everyone,'' he said.
"It's good for the players, good for Ipswich.''
Finch said Swifts' 30-6 win over Rosewood in Reserve was also "a good quality game''.
In the Sunday A-Grade matches to open the new season, Goodna thrashed West End 74-12 at Richardson Park and Brothers proved too strong for Fassifern in a 36-0 shut-out at Harrisville.
STATE OF PLAY
A Grade: Swifts 32 (Ratu Vatuinaruku 2 , Godfrey Okot, Harold Mosby, Cameron Picker, Isi Hafoka tries; Ratu Vatinaruku 4 goals) def Jets 24 (John Schwalger 2, Owen McCarron, Joel Hughes, Dominic Macumboy tries; Izaak Toby 2 goals) at Rosewood.
Reserve Grade: Swifts def Rosewood 30-6, Norths def Redbank 20-10, Brothers def Fassifern 26-14, Leprechaun def Brisbane Valley 42-4, Goodna won on forfeit.
Under 19: Norths def Rosewood 64-0, Fassifern def Redbank 30-16.
Womens: Ormeau def Goodna 26-4.