IT is generally hard to judge much from a team's first hit-out of the season.
But the Ipswich Jets showed against the Penrith Panthers on Friday night they will not lie down for anyone this year.
The Jets drew 18-18 with their more highly-regarded opponents at the North Ipswich Reserve, coming from 18-14 down at three-quarter time.
A scrum seconds before full time gave the Jets one last crack at a win but replacement five-eighth Peter Poppi's shot at field goal was one he'll happily forget.
"I thought there were some good points," Jets co-coach Ben Walker said of his team's performance.
"The new guys fitted in pretty well. The guys from last year continued on. They understand our system and processes.
"For the new guys, it's a learning game but they adapted pretty quickly so there were some encouraging signs."
Walker was not surprised by his team's ability to come from behind in the final quarter to snatch a draw.
"The fact they're training full-time gives them a distinct advantage," he said of the Panthers
"But we know how fit our guys are."
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect was the manner in which Jets halves Todd Riggs and Brendon Lindsay controlled the game.
"We had a chat after the game to Ivan Cleary and Penrith assistant coach David Fairleigh and they were full of praise for Riggsy and Brendon Lindsay," Walker said.
"It was a bit of a contrast to their two young halves who were all over the shop.
"Our experienced guys steered the ship well."
Cleary was glad to get his first match in charge over with but admitted the Jets caused his team a heap of trouble.
"They were very willing," Cleary said.
"They defended their line really well. They came up with some interesting plays."
Asked what he got out of the match, Cleary said: "It's the first game out of the way.
"It was pretty scrappy but it's great to get started."
The poise with which Riggs and Lindsay played was made possible by the effort of the forwards who matched the Panthers for intensity in the tackle and maintained impressive defensive line-speed throughout.
"I thought Lorenzo (Maafu) played well," Walker said of his star second-rower
"Rowan Winterfield was outstanding.
"Just over 12 months ago, he was running around in Blackbutt.
"He's already much better than last year.
"Nat Neale is another who has had 12 months with us."
Another to impress was fullback Eric Alefosio, until he was knocked senseless late in the third quarter.
"We didn't have a bad player," Walker said.
"And the pleasing thing is we've got six or seven guys coming back."
The Jets head to Toowoomba on Saturday to take on Toowoomba in under-20 and open team trials.
Ipswich Jets 18 (Donald Malone 2, Jarrod McInally, Jermaine Alberts tries; Brendon Lindsay goal) drew with Penrith Panthers 18.
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