It was far from pretty but it was a winning start to the new Group 11 season for the Macquarie Raiders on Sunday afternoon.
Star off-season recruit Pone Tongia almost single-handedly ensured victory for the scrappy Raiders by scoring four tries in an entertaining 26-16 win over a gallant Narromine Jets at Cale Oval.
Hard-running centre Tongia was almost impossible to handle all day on the left edge and while his performance was one for Raiders fan to get excited about, the overall effort from the side left a little to be desired.
The Raiders were heavily penalised throughout and frustration bubbled over in the final 10 minutes when prop Jack Kavanagh was sent to the sin bin by referee Daniel Thornton for back chat while handling errors, particularly in the first half, were also a real issue.
"It was very scrappy but we worked hard and got there in the end, which I'm happy with," captain-coach Alex Ronayne said at full-time.
"It was a very frustrating. Around the middle was very sloppy ... but at the end of the day we got the two points and that's all I can ask.
"We've got a long way to go if we want to be there at the end of the year. There's a long way to go but we'll get there."
The performance from the Jets was arguably the best any Narromine side has produced in the last few years.
The hosts were the better of the two sides in the first half, despite losing captain-coach Chad Jacobson to a potentially serious rib injury inside the first five minutes.
The hosts muscled up to the highly-regarded Macquarie pack in attack and defence while Luke Thompson was outstanding up front and was heavily involved in most of the Jets' best moments.
The sides went into half-time at 6-all but with young Narromine half Randel Dowling in the bin for a dangerous throw the Raiders quickly skipped out to a 16-6 lead early in the second stanza.
But the Jets again lifted and Thompson, who had thrown a lovely offload while falling to send halfback Doug Potter over for the opener in the first half, put centre Osea Balemainasoso in with half an hour remaining to keep the hosts firmly in the contest.
Then after Potter grabbed an intercept and ran 80m untouched to score under the posts it was 16-all and a round one shock was on the cards.
I knew we'd be competitive but the boys just went to another level.Narromine president Mick Burns
But with 13 minutes to go the Jets gave away a penalty in their own half and again the Raiders went to their left, where Ronayne produced a neat offload and former New Zealand Warriors Jersey Flegg player Tongia powered through to the defence and stretched out and put Macquarie into the lead while completing his hat-trick.
Tongia then iced the result and capped a stellar individual day out with three minutes to go when another Jets penalty allowed the Raiders into attacking territory.
"He's a big strong boy and he's a good person to have around the team," Ronayne said of Tongia.
"He was very strong today and I'm glad we have him on our team."
With Jacobson battling injury and his fellow co-captain Ryan Richardson gutted after such a demanding round one contest, it was left to proud Jets president Mick Burns to speak about his side at full-time.
"I knew we'd be competitive but the boys just went to another level," Burns said, while also touching on Jacobson's injury.
"He's spewing. He could be out for awhile. His ribs aren't looking good and he's so disappointed because he's put in a big pre-season and put in a lot of time and effort with Ryan.
"If anyone gets injured after three minutes it puts a lot of strain on a team."
The match was Jacobson and Richardson first as co-captain-coaches and they and Burns also spoke to the playing group and had nothing but praise for the effort after the match.
"I just spoke to the team after Ryan and Chad had a chat and said we're proud of them," Burns added.
- MACQUARIE RAIDERS 26 (Pone Tongia 4, Viliame Turuva tries; Matt Naden 3 goals) defeated NARROMINE JETS 16 (Doug Potter 2, Osea Balemainasoso tries; Janus Walford, Randel Dowling goals)