By HUXLEY LOVAI
PAPUA New Guinea Hunters coach Michael Marum described Saturday’s 14-10 loss to last-placed Tweed Heads Seagulls as a “good learning experience”.
Despite dropping their Q-Cup round 15 home fixture — their third loss of the season so far and second at home in 2017 — the Hunters maintained their number one position after the Townsville Blackhawks beat the Sunshine Coast Falcons 36-14.
A disappointed Marum, said the result was a lesson for his side to “never underestimate” the opposition regardless of where they were on the ladder.
The 43-year-old also admitted that his side’s aura of invincibility at the National Football Stadium was starting to wane and sides in the Queensland Cup would now pick up on that.
However, the former Kumul added that the onus was on the Hunters to lift their game and not take things for granted.
“The loss was a good learning experience for us. Obviously, we are very disappointed but it shows that we can never underestimate the opposition, no matter where they are on the ladder,” Marum said yesterday.
The game was billed as the perfect opportunity for the Hunters to consolidate their No.1 standing on the Intrust Super Cup ladder but instead it showed how vulnerable Marum’s team could be without captain and five-eighth Ase Boas, who was ruled out of the clash with an ankle injury.
But Marum stressed that his team stilled needed to learn how to win without their skipper.
A misfiring Hunters failed to mount any pressure on a Seagulls team, in the opening 40 minutes, who were up for the contest from the get-go.
Tweed heads coach Aaron Zimmerle described his side’s victory as akin to climbing Mt Everest and credited his men for showing guts and determination in eking the four-point win.
“Coming here and winning is like climbing Mt Everest. Our season hasn’t been that consistent, we’ve had good and bad weeks. But when we are good we have the ability to compete,” Zimmerle said.
“For our players this win is a great reward. If they believe in themselves and commit everything they have we can progress.”
For the home side, it was a frustrating afternoon as a reshuffled spine of Wartovo Puara Jr at five-eighth and Gahuna Silas at dummy half could not find their rhythm in the early going allowing the Seagulls to take a 14-0 lead into halftime thanks to tries by No.7 Michael Burgess (3rd min) and forward Damian Sironen (38th min).
Tweed No.6 Lincoln McGrady converted both tries and slotted a penalty and his side managed to grit out the second half sticking to a game plan that saw fifth tackle kicks into the corners or into touch, never allowing the Hunters a chance to gain any momentum
The Seagulls pack with big contributions from props in Fijian international Ben Nakubuwai, Sironen and Carne Doyle-Manga ground out the metres and out-shone their opposites.
The Hunters did not do themselves any favours with poor set completions and sub-standard kicking gifting the Gulls possession in good field position.
Despite the obvious disjointed nature of the Hunters attack, they tried hard but Marum was still harsh in his criticism of the effort.
“We have to turn up week in and week out. We didn’t on Saturday,” Marum said.
“It was a really disappointing effort. There was no coordination, no energy. Everything we trained for, we didn’t do. Our kicking was very poor, our game management was poor, we didn’t apply pressure and we were not patient; we tried to score off breaks and good plays instead of being smart.”
Although the Hunters won the second half (10-0) with tries to Adex Wera (44th) and Willie Minoga (70th), the visitors never relinquished their lead despite several close calls and held their nerve to pull off the upset of the year.
Israel Eliab could only convert one try with his second attempt straying wide of the uprights and reminding everyone how important Ase Boas’ boot is to the team’s fortunes.
The Hunters also turned down a chance for a penalty at point blank range mid-way through the second stanza.
Even with the momentum of the game tilting toward the Hunters, these opportunities were wasted through handling errors and a poor kicking game.
The dejected look on the Hunters players’ faces post match told a story of missed opportunities and a harsh lesson learned.
PNG Hunters 10 (Adex Wera, Willie Minoga tries; Israel Eliab con) Tweed Heads Seagulls 14 (Michael Burgess, Damian Sironen tries; Lincoln McGrady 2 con, pen)
Round 15 results: Sat, June 17 – Townsville Blackhawks 36 Sunshine Falcons 14, PNG Hunters 10 Tweed Heads Seagulls 14; Sun, June 18 – Wynnum Manly Seagulls 16 Norths Devils 6.
Bye: Magpies, Dolphins, Cutters, Jets, Bears, Pride, Tigers, Capras.
By HUXLEY LOVAI