By LARRY ANDREW
THE Hela Wigmen pulled off a 16-10 win over defending premiers Lae Tigers yesterday in the Morobe capital to move into equal second on the Digicel Cup ladder.
The round nine fixture at the Lae Rugby League ground was supposed to be venue for Tigers’ return to the winners’ circle but instead proved a frustrating afternoon for coach Stanley Tepend as his side under-performed in a mistake-strewn match.
After the Agmark Gurias’ 20-8 loss to the Lahanis in Goroka, the Wigmen join them on 11 points, three behind the Tigers on 14, with six weeks of the regular season to go.
The visitors were first to score with fullback Standford Talita crossing for an unconverted try.
Minutes prop McKenzie Yei broke the Tigers line and popped a pass for lock Paul Kambi who dived over under the uprights for the Wigmen’s second four-pointer.
Five-eighth and man-of-the-match Towari Kenake added the extras for a 10-0 lead.
The home side had opportunities to score but handling errors prevented them from mounting any pressure.
The halftime score was 10-0 to the Wigmen.
The Tigers thought they were finally on the scoreboard in the 44th minute when winger Joe Mockie crossed but referee Paul Wani’s call for an earlier Wigmen infringement instead of allowing advantage to be played denied the Tigers their first points.
The Wigmen added insult to injury with a fortuitous try to centre David Lapua off a fifth-tackle grubber.
Kenake made no mistake with the boot for a comfortable 16-0 lead.
Tigers’ halfback Mafu Kalas sparked an attacking raid into the Wigmen territory which saw winger Ali Pinda score with the No.7 converting for a 16-6 score line.
Tigers fullback Anderson Benford benefited from a break by second-rower Tim Lomai and scored his side’s second try but it was too little too late as the visitors held on for victory.
In other results, the Mendi Muruks handed the Port Moresby Vipers their ninth straight loss of the 2017 season, with a 10-6 win over the capital city franchise at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in Port Moresby.
Tries to Dunstan Pupio and Ade Rami as well as a penalty goal by Tala Wayabi was enough for the Southern Highlanders to claim the competition points over the unlucky Vipers, who could only muster a try to Junior Lo and a Solomon Pokari penalty goal.
Wigmen 16 (Stanford Talita, Paul Kambi, David Lapua tries; Towari Kenake 2 con) Tigers 10 (Ali Pinda, Anderson Benford tries; Mafu Kalas con) H/T: 10-0 (Wigmen) at Lae Rugby League Ground.
Round 9 results: Sun, July 16 – Mioks 34 Tumbe 30, Tigers 10 Wigmen 16, Muruks 10 Vipers 6, Lahanis 20 Gurias 8.
By LARRY ANDREW