Cup thriller at NSI

Main Stories, Sports

The National – Friday, July 1, 2011

CAPTAIN and five-eighth Peter Paulus is out and third-placed Vipers will miss his sting in the backline against table leaders Lahanis at Goroka.
As the Digicel Cup approaches the half-way mark the Lahanis have made their NSI home a burial ground for visiting teams this season and the Vipers will have to bring their “A” for the round nine clash if they want to take the two valuable points on offer to bridge the gap this Sunday. 
Both teams have a good blend of both youth and experience and the nail-biter is expected attract a bumper crowd to the NSI.
Paulus was ruled out after being injured against the Tigers last week while Lahanis enjoy a full complement but the capital city franchise has been strong on the road defeating Eagles and drawing in Lae in their last two away matches.
Vipers have improved vastly after making the finals last year and are currently third on the ladder with 11 points behind Enga Mioks with 12 points.
This will be  Lahanis seventh home game at the  NSI grounds and the final game of round one.
The bottom of the ladder this weekend will see the winless Gulf Isapeas take on the underperforming Hela Wigmen in what shapes up to be the battle of the wooden spoon of David versus Goliath proportions.
The newly formed Gulf Isapeas have lost seven matches as they lacked the killer blow at critical moments.
Many commentators have put it down to a lack of experience in their young squad. On the other side of the park, the Hela Wigmen ,who boast nine current Kumuls, have tasted victory only once in Round 2 when they defeated the WGS Mt Hagen Eagles 28-4.
This Sunday looms as D-Day for both teams to turn around their fortunes and get their seasons back on track.
The Isapeas came close to beating second-placed Enga Mioks last weekend while the Wigmen, with a wealth of experience at their disposal, cannot be written off as a victory over the Isapeas could awaken the sleeping giants.
In other mouth watering action, Mioks will host the Kongo Coffee Simbu Warriors as they try to replace Lahanis at the top.
In Lae, rugby league fans can look forward to the clash of the SBSL Mendi Muruks and WGS Eagles as the Hagen men chase an all important top five spot.
The Eagles have been inconsistent even though they have one of the best teams in the competition with big guns like Rodney Pora, Dion Aiye, Simon Young, Emmanuel Kunjin, Jason Tali, Ham Tee, Francis Ray and George Moni (injured).
Eagles and Muruks are sure to play another close scoring match with the kicking game of Muruks No.6 Andy Sam and  his opposite Aiye possibly the difference between a win or loss.
Seventh-placed Lae Snax Tigers travel to Ko­kopo with the aim to knock sixth-placed Agmark Ra­baul Gurias off their perch.