THE PNG Hunters delivered an amazing fight-back in front of their delirious fans to wrestle Saturday’s round 15 Intrust Super Cup match off the Redcliffe Dolphins in Kokopo.
They staged one of the greatest Houdini-type acts in the competition to pull off a sensational 43-36 win over the visitors.
While the Hunters celebrated after keeping their “Graveyard” reputation intact, the Dolphins would have been shell-shocked to comprehend how they let that out of the bag when they had led throughout the match.
The Dolphins, working off their big forwards led by captain Jon Green and Bronco David Hala, posted an 18-0 lead in the first half before the Hunters got on the board.
At half time the Dolphins led 24-10 and when the Hunters closed the gap to 28-20 with 20 minutes remaining on the clock the match was there for the taking by either side, particularly for the Dolphins.
And they did just that as they opened up the margin to 34-20 and put themselves in a seemingly comfortable position to inflict the Hunters’ second loss at home.
Current competition leaders the Northern Pride are the only visiting side that has won in Kokopo, 34-18 in Round 4.
That was the way the game was unfolding and when hooker Cameron Cullen laid on a try after some mesmerizing individual brilliance that would easily landed the “try of the match” award if there was such a prize.
But the Hunters had other ideas and launched the comeback when a flying Albert Patak latched onto a perfect pass after great lead up work to take the score to 34-26.
Garry Lo collected a grubber from his own in goal and skirted the defence before straightening and racing eight metres up field before being tacked, with Wera scoring from the ensuing play the ball, only for the movement to be brought back for a penalty to the Dolphins in front of the Hunters posts for obstruction. The Dolphins converted to take the score to 36-26.
That’s when man of the match and captain Israel Eliab stepped up with a clever try that closed the margin to 36-30 in the closing stages.
But the home side just refused to throw in the towel and when lock Adam Korave scored after some impressive footwork for a try converted by centre Noel Zemming to level at 36-all, the Hunters’ second draw of the season seemed a forgone conclusion.
The Dolphins, after surrendering the good lead, seemed to be content with a draw with just three minutes on the clock.
But the Hunters never-say-die attitude started to take its toll on the opposition and aided by a puzzling short kick-off play by the Dolphins, the Hunters worked the ball into the Dolphins territory and Eliab potted a field goal to break the deadlock. Incredibly, the Hunters had hit the front for the first time in the match 37-36.
Another short kick-off went horribly wrong when Hunters winger Garry Lo scooped it up and raced away to drown the Dolphins hopes.
Hunters coach Michael Marum admitted, “We had a bad start”.
But he like almost everybody who watched the game struggled to find the most suitable words to describe his side’s remarkable win.
The victory, which will be talked about for some time, puts the Hunters into outright second spot on 21 points, displacing the Ipswich Jets who crashed to the Burleigh Bears 50-12.
PNG HUNTERS 43 (Thompson Teteh 2, Albert Patak, Garry Lo, Israel Eliab, David Loko, Adam Korave, Adex Wera tries; Noel Zemming 5 goals; Israel Eliab field goal) def REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 36 (Oliver Regan, Aaron Whitchurch, Cameron Cullen, Jon Green, Joe Bradley, Constantine Mika tries; Adrian Davis 5, Liam Georgetown 1 goal) at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.
PNG Hunters: 1. Albert Patak 2. Garry Lo 3. Noel Zemming 4. Thompson Teteh 5. Edward Goma 6. Israel Eliab (c) 7. Roger Laka 18. Sebastian Pandia 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 11. George Benson 12. David Loko 13. Adam Korave 20. Brandy Peter 15. Willie Minoga 16. Lawrence Tu’u 17. Adex Wera
Redcliffe Dolphins: 1. Paul Byrnes 2. Oliver Regan 3. Aaron Whitchurch 4. Nick Ritter 5. Liam Georgetown 6. Zach Strasser 7. Adrian Davis 8. David Hala 9. Cameron Cullen 10. Jon Green (c) 11. Sarafu Fatiaki 12. Joe Bradley 13. James Ackerman 14. Tui Samoa 15. Constantine Mika 16. Jared Cherry 17. Martin Cordwell