THE Papua New Guinea Hunters got back into the winner’s circle in the dying minutes, 25-24, after being pushed hard by an equally determined Sunshine Coast Falcons at a Kalabond Oval yesterday.
A relieved Hunters coach Michael Marum credited the side’s defence for the much-needed win.
“Our defence did it for us. We defended really well especially on our line.
“The boys held out for three or four consecutive sets at one stage and that was really what impressed me,” Marum said.
Hunters fans knuckled down on their seats and watched with bated breath as the clock wound down with three minutes left and the teams locked at 24-24 and that was when captain Israel Eliab, fed off from Wartovo Puara Junior in a planned move, stepped back and slotted the ball between the uprights.
The Hunters looked to have a field day for the Round 23 clash when burly centre Jason Tali opened the scoring. Eliab converted for a 6-0 lead.
Tali proved a game-breaker after strike players Thompson Teteh and Garry Lo were marked out of the match.
The Hunters lead was short-lived as Ruben Bailey scored on the left edge for his captain and prop, Ryan Hansen to convert.
The Falcons resumed attack down the left hand side again but their chance to pressure the homeside went awry as winger Adex Wera picked up a loose ball to race away and score at the other end to give the Hunters a 12-6 lead.
The try lifted the Hunters’ spirits and it was not long before the Hunters were at the Falcons line again this time five-eighth Dion Aiye pouncing on his halves partner, Roger Laka’s grubber to score at the feet of three confused Falcons defenders to lead 18-6 after 20 minutes.
Despite the wet conditions Michael Marum’s men wanted to throw caution to the wind and a high-scoring match was in the offing.
But that did not eventuate as the Falcons played patience and their preference to concentrate their attack on the left hand side reaped rewards as Jay Lobwein, who featured prominently for the Falcons, scraped through, taking the scores 12-18 with a successful conversion. The scores stayed that way at halftime.
The second half was a scrappy affair as several opportunities by the Hunters to take get a decent lead went begging.
“I think our ball security wasn’t good,” Marum said.
“It is a problem we have to fix. The guys just have to concentrate and look after the ball.
“But the Falcons also had the same problem so I really can’t complain. I wouldn’t say it was the weather.
“We just have to learn to keep possession,” Marum, pictured right, said.
Falcons on the other hand, despite their own spate of handling errors mostly from the Hunters’ aggressive defence, looked comfortable when they did completed sets and easily closed the first half margin. Hunters did themselves no favours bombing several chances with Adam Korave losing the ball after crossing the try line the hardest one. Roger Laka, Garry Lo, Willie Minoga, pictured far right, and Noel Zemming had their chances but missed out.
Hunters went ahead 24-12 thanks to a bullocking effort by Tali for his second try on the back of impressive hit-ups and incisive runs from the Hunters. The Falcons wanting the win as desperately as the Hunters kept pushing before Wright and center Callum Klein scored to silence Hunters fans and Hansen kicked a conversion scored for the Falcons to trail 24-22. Lobwein’s niggling runs finally drew a penalty in front of the uprights which Hansen nailed to tie the scores at 24-24.
Aiye missed a field goal attempt in the 77th minute but Eliab made sure of his attempt a minute later to keep the Hunters season alive.
The win sees the Hunters move up one place to sixth on 23 points.
PNG Hunters 25 (Jason Tali 2, Adex Wera, Dion Aiye tries; Israel Eliab 4 con; Israel Eliab field goal) Sunshine Coast Falcons 24 (Sam Wright, Paul McKewin, Rueben Baillie, Jay Lobwein tries; Ryan Hansen 3, Brett Doherty con). The National
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Downer Rugby League 9s World Cup
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