Crunch time for Eagles

The National,Friday July 1st, 2016

THE high-flying Wamp Nga Mt Hagen Eagles face a test of their premiership credentials when they take on neighbours the Waghi Tumbe on Sunday.
With five rounds left in the Digicel Cup, the Snax Lae Tigers (19), Eagles (17), Agmark Gurias (14) and Tumbe (13) are looking to secure places in the top five while the EPG Enga Mioks, Kemele Hela Wigmen, PRK Mendi Muruks, Gulf Isapea and SNS Port Moresby Vipers are all a chance of snatching the fifth spot.
The Eagles have been the most consistent of the Highlands franchises and find themselves in second place behind the Tigers but ahead of reigning premiers the Gurias.
A win over the Tumbe, who are themselves enjoying a good patch of form, in Minj will see James Kops side consolidate second place with the East New Britons set to play the Mioks in Wabag this weekend.
The Gurias edged the Lions 18-14 in Kokopo last week but will need to raise the bar and their pain threshold if they want to come away winners from the Engan capital.
Hunters winger William Aquila is expected to slot back to the left edge for the New Guinea Islanders while Albert Patak, Nelson Daplen, Samuel Hamari and Chris Jerry are the men who will use their toughness, experience and guile to get the win over the home side at Aipus Oval.
In Goroka, the struggling Lahanis host the Mendi Muruks at the Sir Danny Leah Oval. Last on the ladder and having one of their worst seasons to date, the Eastern Highlanders have an opportunity to pull back a win with the Muruks a mixed bag themselves in 2016.
With players of the quality and expereince of Gonzella Urakusi, Bernard Tatsim and John Arme they should be able to wrest a win since their round 2 win over the Hela Wigmen in Mendi.
Competition leaders, the Tigers are on bye with two points in the bag and a step closer to clinching a third straight minor premiership.
Stanley Tepend’s side has a mix of size, speed and experience as well as leadership with former Kumul David Loko a big influence on the team.
Port Moresby’s local derby between the Vipers and the Gulf Isapea will be coach Glen Nami’s chance to  make amends as his side looks to square the ledger after being surprised 18-16 by the feisty Gulf outfit in round one.
Standings: Tigers 19, Eagles 17, Gurias 14, Tumbe 13, Mioks 13, Wigmen 11, Muruks 10, Isapea 9, Vipers 9, Lions 7, Lahanis 6. Fixtures: Rd 12 – Sun, July 3: Eagles v Tumbe, Mioks v Gurias, Vipers v Isapea, Lahanis v Muruks, Wigmen v Lions. Bye: Tigers.