By HUXLEY LOVAI
THE PNG Hunters kept their position at the top of the Q-Cup ladder with a 20-4 win over the Ipswich Jets on Saturday.
The round 22 fixture at the National Football Stadium started off with the visitors throwing everything, including the kitchen sink, at the Hunters with their high tempo, helter-skelter style which almost ran the home side ragged throughout the opening 40 minutes.
The only problem was that for all that enthusiasm, the Jets could muster only a single try to winger Michael Purcell in the eighth minute.
The Ipswich flyer scooped up an inside ball from centre Nemani Valekapa, who brushed off a poor attempted tackle by Willie Minoga to help Purcell score the opening try.
The Women in League round fixture saw female referee Belinda Sleeman control a Q-Cup match in Port Moresby for the first time; it was also a milestone for captain Ase Boas, who passed 300 career points.
The result sees the Hunters move to 35 points, three ahead of the Redcliffe Dolphins (33 points), who beat the Norths Devils 44-24.
The Sunshine Coast Falcons (31 points) dropped to third spot after their 30-26 upset loss to the Mackay Cutters. After a tough week for the SP Brewery-sponsored side following their loss to the Dolphins last round, coupled with backroom drama surrounding the team, coach Michael Marum sounded relieved that his team had been steered itself out of some indifferent form.
“We got the result we wanted today, but there were a lot of errors in the first half,” Marum said.
“In the second half we managed to get over the line and we still have a lot of work to do. But a win is a win.
“We expected the Jets to play their usual style and we only had one full session this week. If we had probably done another one or two sessions we would have performed better against a quality side like the Jets.”
Ipswich, led by Sebastian Pandia and Tyson Lofipo, were strong up front – but the Hunters managed to hang on until forward David Loko broke the game open when he stepped past two would-be tacklers to score right on halftime for a 4-4 deadlock.
The arm wrestle continued in the second half but the Jets’ intensity was not the same as they seemed to have run out of steam and ideas.
The home side were first on the board in the second half thanks to in-form fullback Stargroth Amean.
With the Jets’ execution not on point in the second 40, they could not put any concerted pressure on the Hunters and instead conceded the next points to Marum’s men via lock Stanton Albert who ran through a hole five metres out to score a converted try.
At 16-4 down the Jets tried that “hot potatoe” football but could not sustain it with the error rate climbing – the Hunters were also guilty of squandering their own ball as well.
A last ditch attempt at points by the Jets saw a loose ball pounced on by skipper Boas who fittingly ran 50m to score his side’s final try in the 77th minute.
Jets coach Ben Walker commended his team for the strong start as they dominated proceedings in the opening 20 minutes.
“I think our boys competed really hard, the try right on half time was a bit disappointing. But other than that we’re pretty happy,” Walker said. “It’s always tough come up here and play the Hunters because they always put on a good show and from number one to 17 the Hunters players are a threat, you can’t afford to give them too many chances.”
Hunters 20 (David Loko, Stargroth Amean, Stanton Albert, Ase Boas tries; Ase Boas 2 con) Jets 4 (Michael Purcell try)
Q-Cup Rd 22 results: Sat, Aug 5 – Hunters 20 Jets 4, Pride 24 Magpies 28, Cutters 30 Falcons 26, Capras 14 Blackhawks 26; Sun, Aug 6 – WM Seagulls 22 Bears 38, Tigers 44 TH Seagulls 4, Devils 24 Dolphins 44.
By HUXLEY LOVAI