Hunters bring down Tweed Seagulls

The SP PNG Hunters have produced their best performance of the 2023 QRL Hostplus Cup season, overcoming the Tweed Seagulls 34-18 in a dominant second half display on Saturday afternoon.

Running out to a packed home crowed at the Santos National Football, the Hunters had everything to play for and they rose to the occasion. Despite conceding first points through experienced NRL halfback Toby Sexton, the Hunters held their nerve to quickly drag the game into a grind. 

A huge shot from Tommy Moide, starting at lock in place of his injured skipper Ila Alu in the kick-off set forced an error from Tweed on tackle one, and Moide was the man to turn that field position into points a few tackles later.  
Setting up around the posts, Judah Rimbu asked some questions of the Tweed defence from dummy-half to inject panic and fatigue into the line. 
The Seagulls couldn’t reset following consecutive tackles around the ruck and Moide caught the defenders napping to barge over under the posts.  
As a light rain settled over the stadium, both teams were forced to adjust their approach in attack.  
The Seagulls though, who employ an expansive approach to their footy stuck to their guns to move the ball smoothly across the field. 
That ball movement proved too much for the Hunters when fullback Lindon McGrady matched up on Epel Kapinias and used his speed to beat the big Hunters prop.  
With a 12-6 lead it looked like Tweed were in control of proceedings, but the Hunters fifth tackle options kept them in the contest. Joshua Mire and Jamie Mavoko kicked smartly to end their sets, winning field position for PNG and putting the pressure back on the visitors.  

Mavoko stepped up in PNG’s next attacking set to bamboozle Tweed’s defence on their own line. Just as he did last week against the Pride, Mavoko used his footwork and sleight of hand to engage two defenders before passing Morea Morea into a space on the edge.  
Morea’s try gave PNG an 18-12 lead to the break at half time.

Again though, it was the kicking game of Mire and Mavoko that slowly swung momentum in PNG’s favour.  
Mire’s floating bombs piled the pressure on Tweed’s back three as they were repeatedly asked to work it off their own line. And when the Hunters looked like being trapped in their own half, a perfect 40/20 kick from Mavoko instead marched them into good field position.  
Strike centre Rodrick Tai would extended PNG’s lead from there, icing a trademark Hunters attacking set. Stripped for numbers, Tweed had no answer for Tai who beat the cover defence to slide over in the corner.  
Taking confidence from their defence, the Hunters added to the scoreboard as the clock wound down.  
Again forcing a Tweed error with their line speed, Tai was on the spot to scoop up a loose pass and send speedster Solo Wane racing into the backfield to score. 
Getting reward for his leading role in the front row, Hunters prop Junior Rop crashed over the line in the final minutes to ice the game for PNG.  
A consolation try to Seagulls winger Kaleb Ngamanu allowed Tweed to finish on a positive note, but it was all the Hunters in Round 12.  
Hunters Head Coach Stanley Tepend was delighted with his team’s response after a recent run of narrow losses.  
“Some of the defence on our own try line was great,” said Tepend. “We scrambled really well to save a couple of certain tries.” 
“The boys showed a never give up attitude. We were undermanned by injuries and suspensions, we had young players in the spine but despite the disruption we got the job done.” 
Tepend said it was a strong team performance but was happy to pay tribute to some individual efforts.  
“I thought Jamie (Mavoko) was great for us. They targeted him all game but he held his own in defence and made a number of crucial tackles. We’re starting to see the kind of player he really is which is great for him and for us as a team.” 
“Sanny (Wabo) through the middle is doing a good job too. His leg speed and footwork once fatigue sets in is a real point of difference for us.” 
The Hunters will take a lot of confidence from the win and will carry that into training this week. It should be another good game next Saturday June 10 against the Clydesdales. 

Loop Sports