FOR the second time this year, the Townsville Blackhawks have been pipped at the line by a ruthless and fiercely passionate PNG Hunters.
The Blackhawks now share top sport on the Intrust Super Cup ladder with PNG following yesterday’s 28-26 loss in Kokopo, which provided another reminder that this year’s battle for the Intrust Super Cup premiership is just beginning.
Trailing PNG 28-12 with less than 30 minutes until fulltime, the Blackhawks raced in three unanswered tries from Michael Parker-Walshe, Zac Santo and Kelepi Tanginoa to set up a grandstand finish.
The Blackhawks were on the cusp of bagging a late winner during a last minute set at PNG’s tryline, only for a dropped ball to give PNG the scrum, leading to scenes of jubilation at Kalabond Oval.
“If anything, it was the highest quality game we have played so far,” Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf said.
“It was a good, tough physical game and they (PNG) are going to be very hard to beat.
“I thought the effort from us was certainly there and if we wanted to drop our heads, there were plenty of opportunities to do so, but we didn’t.
“I don’t think this is a team that will lie down and we certainly had all the running near the end and we were well on top.
“But errors let us down, and if we completed that last set I really think we could have got over the line.”
Just as they did when they beat the Blackhawks 22-16 in Townsville two months ago, the Hunters started yesterday’s game in top gear, scoring the game’s first two tries though Noel Zeming and Israel Eliab.
Tanginoa got a quick-fire double for the Blackhawks five minutes later to draw scores level, only for PNG to jump ahead 18-12 when fullback Stargroth Amean crossed the tryline.
The Hunters fired with the same intensity after halftime to bag two more four-pointers through Ase Boas and Adex Wera, but after that it was one way traffic as the Blackhawks made their run, with Parker-Walshe crossing over in the corner, Santo latching on to a blindside pass from Tom Humble to score and Tanginoa grabbing his hat-trick with a powering effort beside the posts.
Neville Costigan played yesterday after passing a final test for concussion suffered in Townsville’s last game against Easts Tigers, as did Ricky Thorby.
“It’s been a great road trip, but at the same time it’s been a tough road trip,” Woolf said, whose team spent Friday and Saturday travelling from Townsville through Cairns, on to Port Moresby and then across to Kokopo in East New Britain.
“But travel is just part of rugby league and it’s a part of this competition, and we’ll take a hell of a lot of good things out of this game.”
PNG HUNTERS 28 (Stargroth Amean, Noel Zeming, Adex Wera, Israel Eliab, Ase Boas tries; Noel Zeming 4 goals) def TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 26 (Zac Santo, Michael Parker-Walshe, Daniel Beasley, Kelepi Tanginoa, Neville Costigan tries; Kyle Feldt 3 goals) at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo.
PNG Hunters: 1. Stargroth Amean 2. Oti Bland Tony 3. Noel Zeming 4. Lawrence Tu'u 5. Adex Wera 6. Israel Eliab (c) 7. Ase Boas 8. Enock Maki 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Esau Siune 11. Brandy Peter 12. Kato Ottio 13. Timothy Lomai 14. Adam Korave 15. Atte Bina 16. Willie Minoga 17. Henry Noki
Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jahrome Hughes 2. Zac Santo 3. Kyle Feldt 18. Robert Lui 5. Lenny Magey 6. Tom Humble 7. Michael Parker-Walshe 8. Glenn Hall 9. Anthony Mitchell 10. Daniel Beasley (c) 11. Noel Underwood 12. Kelepi Tanginoa 13. Neville Costigan 14. Ray Thompson 15. Chris McLean 16. Corey Jensen 17. Ricky Thorby
*This article is courtesy of the Townsville Bulletin website: Blackhawks beaten by Hunters 28-26