Hunters go down fighting

The SP PNG Hunters mounted an extraordinary comeback in Round 10 of the QRL Hostplus Cup.

They chased down a 22-point lead and almost coming away with the result in a 28-24 loss to the Wynnum Manly Seagulls on Saturday afternoon.

The form the Hunters displayed in this game was in complete contrast to their Round 9 performance the previous week.

From the opening set, the proud PNG club ran with intent to get over the ad line and generate some ruck speed in yardage. Completing their sets smartly, halves Jamie Mavoko and Sakias Komati kicked to the corners and were well supported with a strong kick chase. Backing up their efforts with the ball, the Hunters line speed was strong in defence to force an early error from the home side. The Seagulls held firm on this occasion but struggled to work out of their own end due to the Hunters aggression without the ball.

Gifted cheap field position saw Wynnum Manly showed right centre Delouise Hoeter, offloading effort in yardage that ended with Hoeter himself scoring in the corner. The home side scored the next three tries as they enjoyed a mountain of possession and attacking territory.

Starved of the ball, the Hunters could do little to stop Wynnum Manly’s momentum as Kyle Foxwell, Matthew Milson and Tyson Smoothy capitalised on their momentum to take a 22-point lead into the break.

The Hunters comeback started with a huge defensive play from prop Junior Rop. Rop got a foot to the Seagulls grubber kick and chased down the loose ball to win possession for his team. In the insuring play, Sakias Komati produced the goods on this occasion, rolling a clever grubber into the in-goal despite some considerable defensive pressure for Matthew Jesse to score on the left edge.

Next Judah Rimbu’s pass to Rop created a one-on-one situation beside the ruck and Rop produced the offload assist for Sanny Wabo to score. Wabo was in for his second try just a few sets later, relishing his bench impact role.

Running it on the last, the ball went through Wabo’s hands to Komati on the edge where his signature show-and-go made a mockery of the Seagulls defence. Wabo backed his five eighth up on the inside to reduce Wynnum Manly’s lead to 12 points.

The impact of Wabo and Rop around the ruck continued to pay dividends for the Hunters as fatigue levels rose. The Hunters this time shifted it down the right tramline on tackle five for Rodrick Tai to finish a beautiful team try in the corner.

PNG with all the momentum, were denied a comeback by the game clock. Wynnum-Manly limped their way to a 28-24 win but it was the Hunters who finished with the moral victory.

It’s a lesson for the Hunters as they look ahead to a four-game stretch at Santos National Football Stadium, starting next Saturday 27th May with the Northern Pride in Round 11. If PNG can limit their errors and penalties early on, they know they have the blueprint to beat far more experienced opposition in this competition.

Loop Sports