Standout Ipswich Jets player Nat Neale dives over for the first of his two tries in his team's 24-10 state league victory over Northern Pride in Cairns.
Standout Ipswich Jets player Nat Neale dives over for the first of his two tries in his team's 24-10 state league victory over Northern Pride in Cairns. Brendan Radke

Jets speedsters in thrilling try duel

THESE two young Ipswich Jets players love a good meat pie.

With six and five tries each from the opening seven rounds of the Intrust Super Cup, Richard Pandia and Michael Purcell have scored more than their fair share of "meat pies'' already.

Pandia added his sixth try of the season in the Jets' much-needed 24-10 victory over Northern Pride in Cairns on Saturday night.

Pandia scored his team's second four-pointer at Barlow Park to help set up Ipswich's second victory in the state competition.

A healthy rivalry has been growing between Pandia and Purcell, two key players in the Jets' backline. When one scores, the other isn't far behind.

"Every time I get ahead Richie says 'I'm keeping up with you, I'm keeping up with you'," Purcell laughed. "It's always good playing with that extra forward which is how Richie plays.

"He makes plenty of metres and he makes it easy for me to score points."

Funnily enough, the only time Purcell hasn't scored a try was during the two weeks Pandia spent on the sidelines with a dislocated finger.

Still neck-and-neck for the title of the Jets' most potent attacker, Pandia said he wasn't surprised to see the "kangaroo catcher'' struggle in his absence.

 

Ipswich player Richard Pandia breaking through a tackle against in the Intrust Super Cup opening round match against Tweed Heads Seagulls at Piggabeen on Sunday, march 5, 2017.
Ipswich back Richard Pandia (front) with Michael Purcell looming large behind him. Daniel McKenzie

"I told him he's not getting away from me," Pandia laughed. "I think he missed me (during those two weeks) so he couldn't do anything.

"Last year we worked on reading the way we play. Michael is always there when I can get an arm free and I'm always there when he makes a break.

"We did that well last year so we're trying to bring that back again this year."

Both had a hand in scoring a try against the Easts Tigers, although Pandia waited until the last minute of the game to keep pace with his fullback's record.

In the top four on the Intrust Super Cup's top try scorers list, the duo have impressed Ipswich co-coach Ben Walker.

Looking to exploit their talents this season, Walker said the Jets style of play had benefited the speedsters chances of finding the try-line.

"As long as they both keep scoring points I'll be happy," Walker said. "We've caught fire. We haven't won the last couple of games but we are playing some outstanding football which is good.

"All the play and the movement we do is designed for fast players (like Richard and Michael) to find a slow, tiring forward and they are doing it better than anyone else at the moment. So I hope they keep going."

Walker was pleased to see Ipswich secure a deserved victory in the greasy conditions.

"Today we didn't play as well as we have the last couple of weeks but nonetheless it's still a win and it's a confidence boost for the rest of the group,'' he said.

Walker said dealing with the humidity and late game fatigue in Cairns were added challenges.

"A few of the boys felt the conditions a little bit and it was a little bit heavy under the foot too,'' he said.

As competitive as Pandia and Purcell are, neither one would sacrifice their team for a lead on the try-scorers list.

According to Pandia, the "team comes first''.

While his competitor agrees, neither could say who would finish the year with the most tries for the season.

"It's hard to know at this early in the season," Purcell said. "It's a good little competition that we have going.

"Like Ben and Shane say we've got a job to do and that is to get the two points for the team. If we can get a try on the way that's a bonus.

"I think we are starting to find our form now. It's a good back line we have and we are getting combinations together. You've always got to watch out for those offloads from our forwards."

Playing alongside the likes of Wes Conlon and Nemani Valekapa, there's no questioning the Jets' strike power.

State of play

Intrust Super Cup Round 7: Ipswich Jets 24 (Nat Neale 2, Richard Pandia, Sam Martin tries; Wes Conlon four goals) def Northern Pride 10 (Kienan Grogan-Hayes, Jordan Biondi-Odo tries; Khan Ahwang goal) at Barlow Park, Cairns.

Mal Meninga Rd 7: Western Mustangs def Ipswich Jets 40-10 at Gold Park, Toowoomba.

Colts under 20: Western Mustangs def Ipswich Jets 50-6 at Gold Park, Toowoomba.