Late Wigmen try equalizes match

A late try by former Hunters centre and Hela Wigmen captain courageous Junior Igila would seal a remarkable come from behind to force a draw with PRK Mendi Muruks right at the death.

Both teams traded points earlier with successful penalty kicks to draw 2-all before the real battle intensified and a number of players were either placed on report or sin binned for dissent and dangerous play. Muruks were leading 16-12 until Wigmen took an attacking opportunity inside Muruks territory and scored the equalizer.

The Southern Highlands franchise back under original coach Roderick Puname took charge of proceedings showing early dominance in both field territory and possession, frustrating the Wigmen into handling errors. It was a nervous return for Wigmen’s captain and main playmaker Solomon Pokare coming up with a number of uncharacteristic errors, after almost two months on the sideline due to a hand injury.

From the opening exchanges both teams were tied up 2-all from early penalties, before the match intensified and turned into an arm wrestle. Muruks captain Yves David was like a man possessed, carting the ball all day, to set the platform for his young mobile forward pack. It got the Wigmen back paddling on numerous occasions in their early sets.

Playing with a bit more energy and intent, Muruks were first to score from a well-executed right edge play that saw center Douglas Tanduka cruise past Wigmen’s defensive line to set up his winger Jade Puk. Puk showed a clean pair of heels to the line for the 8 points lead before Wigmen’s veteran winger Norman Brown got one back with a diving put down on the left corner to trail 6-10.  From another attacking set inside Muruks half, Wigmen gave away a costly penalty after “man at work” Atua Joshua Nogoya was penalized and sent to the bin for using an elbow on a defender. Muruks took the two points on offer to extend their lead 12-6.

Against a run of play, Wigmen’s lock Woods Kawage caught Muruks defense inside their red zone with a scamper out of dummy half to score beside the post to level 12 all. With seven minutes to go Muruks quickly returned the favor when reserve forward Pasalo Kolo threwa a deft pass to centre Robert Gigmai jnr to put Muruks back in front 16-12, setting up a grandstand finish. As frustration continued to build, both teams got involved in shuffles forcing a number of stoppages.

But it was Wigmen’s never-say-die attitude that saw captain Igila, with ball in hand and shifting attack to the right edge, sold a big dummy before stepping back inside, and using his momentum, he dived over for a nail-biter. Unfortunately, Pokare missed the conversion from the side line and the match ended 16-all at fulltime.

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