By JACK AMI
GULF Isapea’s pint-sized centre Jephet Olik gave his side a vital 20-16 win when he scored a 70th minute try against the Mendi Muruks at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium yesterday.
Olik was set up by centre Jackins Mark but he had to scoot around a deserate Muruks defence to touch down out wide out before converting the try himself.
The Muruks led 16-14 with 15 minutes left and looked to be content to grind out a victory before Olik struck.
The utility was in thick of action with the support of Mark and five-eighth Solomon Pokari, who guided the side well around the field.
Both franchises, sponsored by Petroleum Resources Kutubu, played aggressively but in the true spirit of sportsmanship while their fans enjoyed the contest out in the middle.
The first half was an evenly contested affair the Southern Highlanders leading their neighbors 12-10 with tries to Sioni Mokom and Andrew Ipi and a conversion and one penalty goal to Wesley Vali.
Isapea got on the board through veteran Barry Pekaea and captain Bernard Goma with Pokari kicking one from two conversions.
In the second half, poor ball handling and set completions especially in the opposition half conspired to turn the game into an arm wrestle even though the Muruks looked to be the side with the momentum.
Vali kicked a penalty goal to put his side ahead 14-10 in the 55th minute but Isapea winger Toope Mitaharo drew his side level with a try five minutes later.
The visitors again hit the front with a Vali penalty goal to lead 16-14. Olik, who played halfback in his debut for the Gulf side in Round 5, used some of that anticipation and footwork to outflank a tiring Muruks defence to cross min the corner for what would turn out to be the decisive play of the day.
The win also arrested a five-match losing streatk by the Isapea and gave them a chance to build momentum heading into the final five rounds of competition.
The match between BintangorGoroka Lahanis and EPG EngaMioks ended prematurely.
In Hagen, the Wamp Nga Eagles thrashed Kemele Hela Wigmen 34-6 after leading 18-0 at half time.
The Snax Lae Tigers stopped WaghiTumbe’s winning run 22- 12 while the Agmark Gurias edged a tenacious TNA Simbu Lions 18-14 in Kokopo.
Standings: Tigers 19, Eagles 17, Gurias 16, Tumbe 13, Mioks 13, Wigmen 11, Muruks 10, Isapea 9, Vipers 9, Lions 7, Lahanis 6.
By JACK AMI