The Sunshine Coast Falcons have held out a fast-finishing PNG Hunters side to deny them their first win of the 2019 season, holding on to win 28-26 at Port Moresby's National Football Stadium.
The match started with high intensity as both sides started throwing the ball around.
The Hunters forward pack was led by Stanton Albert and Enoch Maki and they worked hard to lay a foundation for their team who were searching for their first win of the season.
Match: Hunters v Falcons
Round 3 -
Venue: PNG Football Stadium, Port Moresby
All eyes however were on the 20-year-old rookie number six Justin Yoka, who was making his debut in the Intrust Super Cup in the high-pressure position.
While anticipation was high for the Hunters team, it was however the visitors who scored the first try through captain Dane Hogan who bumped and spun his over to score. Falcons halfback Nicho Hynes covered the try with just 14 minutes gone.
Hunters hit back via winger Junior Rau in the corner soon after, but hooker Charlie Simon missed the conversion.
The home side were in again minutes later through the rookie Yoka as he grabbed an offload from forward Maki to score his first try. This time, Simon was successful with the conversion.
Poor ball handling from Hunters then invited the Falcons to attack and they wasted no time with forward Hogan grounding the ball after a well-weighted kick from Hynes for his second.
In a back-and-forth game, the Hunters hit back through centre Joe Joshua in the corner after a good long ball by Yoka.
Falcons got on the scoreboard again via winger Nathan Saumalu who scored in the corner after a drop ball by the Hunters and the Falcons led 18-16 going into the halftime break.
Falcons crossed early in the second half through forward Daniel Dole and Saumalu for his second try after handling errors and poor defensive reads from the Hunters gave them the opportunity.
The visitors had scored two tries in the space of 10 minutes to start the second half and that was enough to deny the Hunters despite a spirited comeback.
Hunters centre Joshua crossed for two more tries to complete his hat-trick, while Simon converted the last try to bring the final scores to a close 28-26 win to the Falcons.
Next weekend, the Hunters will play East Tigers next week at Langland Park, while the Falcons will be at home on the Sunshine Coast against the Norths Devils.
Image: Justin Olam of the Sunshine Coast is tackled. Photo: PNG Hunters Media