The National, Monday March 3rd, 2014
THE Hunters enjoyed a dream Intrust Super Cup debut, stunning the Redcliffe Dolphins 24-18 yesterday.
It is still early days but the SP Brewery sponsored Hunters victory has stamped the Michael Marum-coached side as genuine contenders.
Coach Michael Marum did not show much emotion but credited to his side’s fighting spirit against a bigger outfit.
“In every game that we play we are learning new things and working on areas in our game to improve,” Marum said.
“I didn’t expect the boys to stand up like that for the first game.”
“This is a good start to the competition and we will hope to build on that.”
Marum admitted that leaving prop Joe Bruno out of the line-up was tough but the decision to go for utility players on the bench paid off handsomely with Willie Minoga in particular proving his versatility in a barnstorming second-half performance in the pack.
What the crowd witnessed was a thoroughly professional and polished performance by the Hunters, who were physically imposing from kick-off.
One of the Dolphins forwards in the thick of the action was Brisbane Bronco David Hala, who was called from the bench in the 20th minute to throw his 109-kilogram frame at the enthusiastic PNG defence.
But even the 30-game NRL star struggled to deal with an imposing Hunters’ pack.
“It was a physical game out there. They came out firing and we couldn’t hold onto the ball or complete our sets,” Hala told NRL.com.
“It was a pretty good effort by the boys. We tried our best until the end, but credit to PNG who came out and got the win.”
The Hunters took the game to the home side with two scintilating tries to skipper Israel Eliab and centre Thompson Teteh.
Despite Redcliffe clawing back to draw level at 12-12 at half-time, the hunter came out of the Hunters as they zeroes in on the Dolphins’ runners with some brutal defence.
While there were several lapses that the home-side countered upon, the Hunters seemed to move into a another gear with inter-change utility Lawrence Tu’u and bullocking wing Gary Lo powering over with the try of the match to seal the win.
Lo’s try typified their fighting spirit from a run deep inside the Hunters half, that led to full-back AdexWera and then lock Sebastian Pandia dissecting the Dolphin’s right defence before handing off to Lo again to finish off what he started with a great try.
That try sent the PNG supporters into a frenzy with several Dolphins players sprawled in the wake of the trail to the try-line.
The Hunters making their debut in the competition entertained the highly vocal Papua New Guinean crowd with their physical brand of rugby to silence the Dolphins home-crowd.
The Channel Nine voted man of the match Pandia played like a man possessed alongside a dogged performance from winger Lo, full-back Adex Wera and the first rate service from rake Wartovo Puara Junior to ensure the Hunters opened the competition a positive note.
With the next three matches at home at the ‘Graveyard’ at the Kalabond Oval, an overwhelmed Minister for Sports Justin Tkatchenko said as long as the Hunters are not complacent they could end up in the top four by the fifth match.
Redcliffe Dolphins 18 (M Tikinau, B Coutts, J Marketo tries; L Georgetown 3 con) PNG Hunters 24 (I Eliab, T Teteh, L Tu’u, G Lo tries; R Laka 2 con, 1 pen, Pandia 1 pen).
ISC Results: Saturday – Norths Devils 22 Ipswich Jets 16, Northern Pride 36 Sunshine Coast Falcons 0, Mackay Cutters 12 Easts Tigers 40; Sunday – Burleigh Bears 36 Central Queensland Capras 24, Wynnum Manly Seagulls 32 Tweed Heads Seagulls 28.