Hunters keep heat on finals rivals
The PNG Hunters have kept their chances of snaring a maiden Intrust Super Cup finals berth alive after a barnstorming 44-14 victory over Souths Logan Magpies in Round 25 action.
PNG ran in nine tries to three with a double to centre Jason Tali while crowd favourite Garry Lo crossed for his 24th try of the season to keep the Hunters within striking distance of the top five.
Needing a big win to boost their points differential, the Hunters were leading 44-4 inside the final 10 minutes but two late tries to Souths coupled with poor goal-kicking chipped away at their for-and-against, much to the relief of the Tweed Heads Seagulls who would have been sweating on the outcome of the game.
The Hunters currently lie sixth on the ladder with 31 points and a plus-91 points differential. They will receive a bye in the final round meaning they will quality for the finals in their inaugural season if Ipswich Jets (fifth on 32 points) lose to the Redcliffe Dolphins or Mackay beats fourth-placed Tweed Heads (33 points, +102) by 12 points or more.
In other Round 25 results the Northern Pride continued their rich vein of form, winning their 13th-straight game with a 30-6 win over the Jets. Norths Devils flogged the Dolphins 48-14, Easts Tigers accounted for the Burleigh Bears 30-14, Mackay Cuttters defeated the Central Queensland Capras 40-20, Wynnum Manly received the weekend bye and Tweed Heads maintained their place within the top five with a 26-4 win over the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
However, at Davies Park in Brisbane, the Hunters proved once again that they are the perennial entertainers of the Intrust Super Cup.
If Sunday's mauling of the Magpies happens to be the last match of the Hunters' season, they can proudly hold their heads up high having captivated Queensland rugby league audiences since their maiden ISC match against Redcliffe at a packed Dolphin Oval at the beginning of March.
The Hunters were gifted the best possible start by the Magpies after the hosts conceded a penalty in the first set which allowed PNG's Jason Tali to stroll over the line with the boot of skipper Israel Eliab taking the score to 6-0 after two minutes.
Souths hit back in the 12th minute when Dallas Anderson snuck over in the corner for a try in his 50th ISC game but the conversion was waved away leaving the score at 6-4.
The Magpies looked threatening and were deep on attack until an intercept by Roger Laka saw the halfback run 60 metres before finding Thompson Teteh in support who cruised over the line for PNG's second try and a 12-4 lead after 19 minutes.
The Hunters went the full length again in the 27th minute after Souths put a cross-field kick up in the direction of PNG winger Adex Wera, who spilt the ball backwards allowing Eliab to scoop up the loose ball and run the length of the field to extend PNG's lead to 18-4.
Laka was involved again three minutes before the break after he delivered a short ball to find Tali who gratefully accepted his second try of the afternoon.
With less than a minute remaining before half-time, a PNG chip-and-chase was regathered by the visitors and the ball made its way out to winger Adex Wera who raced down the sideline only to be bundled into touch five metres short of the stripe by Magpies fullback Luke Archer.
Souths then knocked on from their next set allowing PNG another shot at a four-pointer in the dying seconds before the break and they took full advantage as Albert Patak squeezed his way over in the corner for a 28-4 half-time lead.
The Hunters continued their rampage in the 42nd minute after a shift to their left side found winger Garry Lo and the cult hero found the line for his 24th try of the season to take the score out to 32-4.
Back-to-back sets to the Hunters resulted in a lovely sweeping backline play allowing Noel Zemming a try after he replaced the injured Lo on the wing who scummed to an ankle injury only minutes earlier.
Another whirlwind set by the Hunters in the 59th minute ended with a try to Sebastian Pandia in the same corner as Zemming's previous try as the score blew out to 40-4.
Two minutes later Zemming was heavily involved again as his clever tap-on found Lawrence Tu'u who raced over out wide to score PNG's ninth try of the afternoon taking the score to 44-4.
The Hunters threatened to pile on even more points in the final 15 minutes but the Magpies responded with two late consolation tries to Daniel Tamou and Mitch Cronin to leave the final score at 44-14.
PNG HUNTERS 44 (Jason Tali 2, Israel Eliab, Garry Lo, Thompson Teteh, Sebastian Pandia, Noel Zemming, Albert Patak, Lawrence Tu’u tries; Israel Eliab 2, Roger Laka, Noel Zemming goals) def SOUTHS LOGAN MAGPIES 14 (Dallas Anderson, Mitch Cronin, Daniel Tamou tries; Brandon Khuu goal) at Davies Park.
Souths Logan Magpies: 1. Luke Archer 2. Ramon Filipine 3. Grant Cooke 4. Dallas Anderson 5. Brandon Khuu 6. Phil Dennis (c) 7. Rhys Jacks 8. Luke Page 9. Mitch Cronin 10. Zac Lemberg 11. Andrew Edwards 12. Darcy Wright 13. Leon Panapa 14. Herschel Gideon 15. Daniel Tamou 16. Rez Phillips 20. Simanu Crichton
PNG Hunters: 1. Israel Eliab (c) 2. Garry Lo 3. Thompson Teteh 4. Jason Tali 5. Adex Wera 6. Dion Aiye 7. Roger Laka 18. Brandy Peter 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 11. George Benson 12. Sebastian Pandia 13. Adam Korave 14. Noel Zemming 15. Willie Minoga 16. Albert Patak 17. Lawrence Tu'u