Retiring Mendi Blackhawks duo Anthony Mitchell and Michael Parker-Walshe missed out on a fairytale final home game finish as the PNG Hunters defeated the Blackhawks 24-16 in their Round 23 game on Saturday.
It was a strong showing from the visitors who were praised for their defensive resolve – especially in the second half of the game.
The visitors were first on the board, scoring two early unanswered tries in the first 10 minutes, when star fullback Stargroth Amean and then half Watson Boas crossed, giving them a 12-0 lead.
However, the large and vocal home crowd helped lift their team to fight back and the Blackhawks soon responded in dynamic fashion with three unanswered tries of their own in a 20-minute period.
Carlin Anderson was the first to score, with points coming after he collected a Hunters kick, passing to his winger Jonathon Reuben who then returned pass, finding Anderson in open space. He then sprinted 50m to score a try, which he then converted.
Paul Byrnes was the next over the line, thanks to a well-orchestrated set play. A cut-out pass from Anderson found Byrnes who went in score in the right side corner. Anderson’s successful conversion locked scores up 12-12.
The home team’s third and final try of the day came off a high kick from Parker-Walshe, with Reuben easily collecting the ball before putting it down to score the try.
The missed conversion saw the home team hold a 16-12 lead heading into halftime.
The second half started with the Hunters showing why they are the competition leaders, defending their line for seven straight sets. The Blackhawks threw everything at the Hunters in that time, but could not crack the line.
After absorbing that pressure, the Hunters turned it around onto the opposition and ended the game with two late tries – both to centre Israel Eliab.
The win sees them remain on top of the Intrust Super Cup ladder and in the running to possibly sealing the minor premiership.
Earlier in the day, the Blackhawks were dealt a blow before kick-off with forward Daniel Beasley having to withdraw from the match due to an injury in the warm up.
The Blackhawks have the bye next week followed by the Sunshine Coast Falcons in the last round of the year; while the Hunters finish the regular season with a home match against Wynnum Manly and a round 25 encounter away to Tweed Heads.
PNG HUNTERS 24 (Israel Eliab 2, Stargroth Amean, Watson Boas tries; Ase Boas 4 goals) def TOWNSVILLE BLACKHAWKS 16 (Carlin Anderson, Paul Byrnes, Jonathon Reuben tries; Carlin Anderson 2 goals) at Jack Manski Oval.