By Scott Sawyer - Gladstone Observer
A LARGE crowd of more than 2000 people greeted the PNG Hunters as they came to Marley Brown Oval to tackle the CQ Capras on Saturday night.
With the team at People Resourcing getting on board to help bring the game to Gladstone, the fans did not let anyone down, turning out in droves to see the naturally gifted Hunters - a perfect combination of speed, strength and skill - take on the locals.
From the onset the tone was set, with PNG bruising in defence and daring in attack, prepared to risk possession at the sniff of any half-chance.
To the Capras' credit, they hung tough, themselves guilty of plenty of dropped ball, they refused to allow the Hunters to take the ascendancy, striking out wide through winger Rhys Williams in the fourth minute of the game.
Desperate Capras defence on their own line repelled an almost immediate PNG response.
But a silky pick-up from the PNG fullback allowed the custodian to slice through from 10m out to get the visitors on the board.
With scheming halfback Roger Laka crabbing his way across the Capras line, probing for a gap, the central Queenslanders defended excellently for the most part, refusing to rush out at the jinking Laka.
Continued early errors from the Capras starved their star five-eighth Brent Crisp.
Lock Gavin Hiscox was a standout for the Capras, leading the way with the unheralded work needed in what quickly became an arm-wrestle.
Ten minutes before half-time Matt Mizzi was injected into the game, straight away showing why there are such big wraps on the young prop, refusing to shy away from the impact.
Half-time saw the sides head to the shed with PNG in front 12-6, however that soon changed, four minutes after the break when PNG crashed over after Capras gave away a penalty.
With half an hour to go, an out-of-sorts Crisp began to try and drag his side into the game.
He was supported by workhorse backrower Guy Williams, who held his own all night and was rewarded with a try 17 minutes from time, bringing the Capras to within a converted try of the Hunters.
The Capras nearly plucked a last-gasp victory, denied a try in the corner after outstanding Capras centre Smith Samau appeared to have released the ball before going out.
But the touch judge disagreed, denying Hughie Stanley a match-levelling try.
Capras' assistant coach Damien Seibold was impressed with the effort of his lads in the narrow 16-12 loss.
"I'm very proud of them, our completions could've been a bit better earlier on but we know that and we need to move forward and improve that next week," Seibold said.
"They (PNG) run hard, they hit hard and if there's a chance of an offload there's always one of them standing there ready to take it."
Capras' skipper Hiscox was proud of the improvement in his troops and wished to thank the boisterous crowd for their support on the night.
PNG HUNTERS 16 (Adex Wera, David Loko, Willie Minoga tries; Noel Zemming 2 goals) def CQ CAPRAS 12 (Rhys Williams, Guy Williams tries; Brent Crisp 2 goals) at Marley Brown Oval, Gladstone.
CQ Capras: 1. Reece Baker 18. Hughie Stanley 3. Marco Delapena 4. Smith Samau 5. Rhys Williams 6. Brent Crisp 7. Marlon Doak 8. Arlin Paki 9. Theeran Pearson 10. Peter Gallen 11. Liam Pickersgill 12. Guy Williams 13. Gavin Hiscox (c) 14. Mark Johnstone 15. John Clayton 17. Matt Mizzi 21. Andrew Dale
PNG Hunters: 1. Adex Wera 2. Garry Lo 3. Noel Zemming 4. Albert Patak 5. Edward Goma 6. Israel Eliab (c) 7. Roger Laka 18. Joe Bruno 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 11. George Benson 12. David Loko 13. Adam Korave 14. Dion Aiye 8. Willie Minoga 16. Lawrence Tu'u 17. Tiger Emere