By JACK AMI
THE Port Moresby Vipers finally cracked the egg with a convincing 38-12 upset win over defending Digicel Cup champions and competition leaders the Lae Tigers at the National Football Stadium on Sunday.
The capital city franchise, who are languishing in last place on the ladder, got their first win of the 2017 season in the round 10 fixture played after the Hunters-Cutters Q-Cup match.
After coping criticism from their own rugby league community as well as the media, the National Captial District Commission-sponsored side restored some pride as well as took the first step to building momentum after a disastrous start to the season.
The Tigers, who remain on top of the standings despite the loss, are in a slump losing their second match on the trot.
For Vipers coach Joe Sipa, who took over the reins after Philip Boge’s resignation, the victory was a morale-booster for his men.
Sipa, a former Vipers player, attributed the win to combinations finally clicking and the players having faith in the game plan and trusting each other.
“This win was morale booster for us after nine rounds of getting beaten; we’ve got five more games and this will give the team confidence that we can finish the season well,” Sipa, whose side are out of finals contention, said.
“We’re out of the premiership race but we needed this win; it’s just good to restore some lost pride for and do it for our fans as well.
“I just want to thank my players for performing well and giving it their best even though we were really playing for our pride and respect. Hopefully we can keep the form up get a few more wins.
Sipa said he was pleased with his side’s composure and attitude on defence and attack. He said his men, particularly his halves who played a big role in guiding the side to victory, played with self-belief and an intensity that was encouraging.
“Our halves Atte (Bina Wabo) and Solomon (Pokari Kale) took on the responsibility of leading the side and their leadership and direction was the key for us.”
With five games left in the season the Vipers, who are on two points, are unlikely to make the top four but they priority would be to avoid the wooden spoon with the Waghi Tumbe on six points and the Lahanis on eight, the other sides Sipa’s men would be hoping to get ahead of.
The underrated Vipers pack comprising Supa George, Nelson Wak, John Supa, Yoks Bagave and Nicko Dom may have been out-sized by the Tigers but out-played them throughout the first half enabling the home side to get out to a 30-0 halftime lead.
Centres Rex Maima and Sparo Thomas and fullback Brendon Gotuno all benfited from the extra time and space provided by their forwards.
Vipers scored seven tries to the Tigers’ two; Wabo, Ben Wemin (2), Wak, Gotuno, George, Michael Yanis while Pokari kicked five conversions.
Tigers forwards Timothy Lomai and Junior Rop crossed in the second stanza with halfback Mafu Kalas kicking two goals.
The visitors gave the Vipers too big a head start and lacked the fire power or the skill to run down the home side in a more competitive second 40.
By JACK AMI