Hunters rise at home
Most clubs who go onto savour success in September have a season-defining win they look back fondly upon.
And if the PNG Hunters qualify for this year’s finals series in just their first year in the Intrust Super Cup, chances are they will put Saturday’s win against the Wynnum Manly Seagulls in that category.
The Hunters were missing key personnel including Timothy Lomai (suspension), Gonzela Urakusie and David Loko (stood down for disciplinary reasons), along with injured trio Brandy Peter, Dion Aiye and Willie Minoga.
Their player pool was further tested after star five-eighth Israel Eliab fell ill (diagnosed with measles) the night before the match.
Wynnum could smell blood, and with a number of seasoned professionals in their line-up, they got off to great start, crossing for the first try of the match to take a six point lead before the Hunters hit back with a George Benson try to level the scores.
The first half was all Wynnum’s from there as they went to the half time break leading 16-6. The Hunters’ manpower was further tested when they lost prop Joe Bruno to concussion mid-way through the first half leaving them with three players on their bench.
The Hunters came out firing in the second half to bring the deficit back to 16-10, before Wynnum again stretched their lead out to 22-10.
That’s where the magic began … and perhaps that season-defining moment.
The Hunters dug deep and from the grind of the first 60 minutes, they started to find the belief in themselves and their abilities.
Almost like a light switch being turned on the Hunters came roaring back to score three unanswered tries that left the Wynnum side stunned.
The fitness, skill, unpredictability and sheer pace of the Hunters attack left defenders in their wake in a scintillating last 20 minutes of football.
Sebastian Pandia was outstanding leading from the front, with Wartovo Puara at his scheming best, breaking the line and a constant threat with the ball in hand.
Benson punched holes in the Wynnum defence all day while Thompson Teteh and Garry Lo terrorised the visitors with every touch of the ball.
Roger Laka’s kicking game was outstanding and his leadership equally so. Noel Zemming combined well with Laka and he charged at the line with blistering pace, causing havoc while also continuing his great goal kicking form.
Lawrence Tu'u was devastating and lifted his team with some big runs busting through the much bigger Wynumm pack.
Adam Korave, Esau Suine, Tiger Emery and debutante Albert were tireless in attack and defence. Adex Wera and Albert Patak were also outstanding with Edward Goma more than holding his own, while Noel Joel chipped in with some quality minutes.
Wynnum Manly remain well placed, despite the loss. They sit in fourth spot and will pick up the two points from the Round 12 bye this weekend.
PNG HUNTERS 32 (Garry Lo, Thompson Teteh, George Benson, Roger Laka, Noel Zemming, Lawrence Tu’u tries; Noel Zemming 4 goals) def WYNNUM MANLY SEAGULLS 22 (Daniel Ogden, Matt Grieve, Ben Cronin, Mitchell Frei tries; Matt Seamark 3 goals) at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.
PNG Hunters: 1. Adex Wera 2. Garry Lo 3. Thompson Teteh 4. Albert Patak 5. George Benson 19. Stanton Albert 7. Roger Laka 8. Joe Bruno 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 12. Sebastian Pandia 20. Noel Joel 14. Noel Zemming 15. Lawrence Tu'u 16. Edward Goma 17. Adam Korave 18. Tiger Emere
Wynnum Manly Seagulls: 1. Daniel Ogden 2. Peter Gubb 3. Matt Grieve 4. Mitchell Buckett 5. Jordan Kahu 6. Ben Cronin 7. Matt Seamark 8. Ben Shea 9. Jon Te Reo 10. Tim Natusch (c) 11. Stephen Coombe 12. Graham Clark 13. Mitchell Frei 14. Mitchell Moore 15. Jon Grieve 16. Tanu Wulf 17. Dylan Smith