The Hunters celebrate winning the Sun Engineering Cup after beating Ipswich.
PNG Hunters turned on a superb second-half performance to shut down the visiting Ipswich Jets 40-22 and keep their finals hopes alive in the Intrust Super Cup on Saturday.
The Hunters were stunned early by a powerful display from the Jets, who spread and the ball around and used their star-studded backs like Marmim Barba and Brendon Marshall, who both collected doubles to lead 20-10 at half-time.
But with the packed Kalabond Stadium crowd urging them on, the competition newcomers produced a trademark finishing burst to overrun the Jets.
With punishing defence the Hunters restricted the Jets to a try-less second half with their only points coming from a penalty goal, while the home side unleashed their attacking arsenal to score their fourth consecutive win at home and stay in touch with the leaders with three games remaining.
These are away this weekend against Wynnum Manly in Round 24 and Souths Logan in Round 25, with Round 26 a bye which gives the Hunters two points.
Forwards Rod Griffin, Billy McConnachie, Keiron Lander and Matt Parcell were among the few Jets players in the visiting side who threatened to get through the Hunters’ relentless defence in the second stanza.
Tackling in numbers, the Hunters continuously defused these efforts to prevent any momentum the Jets needed to give their speedy backline, which included Wes Conlon, the opportunity to repeat their first half display.
Centre Jason Tali who was only drafted into the Hunters squad mid-season from the local Digicel Cup proved why he was a handy catch as he celebrated with a hat-trick. His second four-pointer levelled the scores at 20-20.
Noel Zemming broke the deadlock from the touchline with his conversion and with 19 minutes still remaining, both teams needed something special to swing the match under their control.
That spark came from the Hunters, with hooker Wartovo Puara scooting over to put the Hunters ahead 28-22.
With 15 minutes on the clock it was still enough time for the Jets, who boast one of the best attacks in the competition, to claw their way back into the match.
However, Tali put his team into safer territory when he used sheer strength to power over for his third try to put the Hunters on the way to victory 34-22.
The two competition points were safety in the bag but it seemed the victory was incomplete without a Garry Lo special.
Just on the stroke of fulltime the classy winger used brute strength to break out of several Jets tacklers to score under the posts to take his tally to 22 as the competition’s leading try scorer.
PNG HUNTERS 40 (Jason Tali 3, Garry Lo, Adex Wera, Wartovo Puara, Willie Minoga tries; Noel Zemming 5, Israel Eliab goals) def IPSWICH JETS 22 (Brendon Marshall 2, Marmin Barba 2 tries; Marmin Barba 3 goals) at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.
PNG Hunters: 1. Israel Eliab (c) 2. Garry Lo 3. Thompson Teteh 4. Jason Tali 5. Adex Wera 6. Dion Aiye 7. Roger Laka 8. Timothy Lomai 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 19. Noel Zemming 11. Sebastian Pandia 16. Brandy Peter 14. Lawrence Tu'u 15. Willie Minoga 20. Stanton Albert 17. Albert Patak
Ipswich Jets: 1. Ben White 2. Kurt Capewell 3. Josh Seage 4. Brendon Marshall 5. Carlin Anderson 6. Josh Cleeland 7. Dane Phillips 8. Kurtis Lingwoodock 9. Troy O'Sullivan 10. Rod Griffin 21. Rob Worsley 12. Sam Martin 13. Keiron Lander (c) 14. Billy McConnachie 18. Marmin Barba 19. Wes Conlon 22. Matt Parcell