By MICHAEL PHILIP
WAGHI Tumbe handed hosts Rabaul Gurias their second straight loss, 29-22, in round nine of the Digicel Cup in Kokopo, East New Britain, on Saturday.
The Kalabond Oval loss saw coach Francis Ray’s Agmark-sponsored side surrender the pole spot on the 12-team ladder of the country’s premier rugby league competition.
The Gurias opened the scoring through an Ase Boas try and five-eight Saki Peter added the extras to lead 6-0 six minutes in.
They continued to stamp their authority early in the game when hooker Mark Alunga sent prop Daniel Pai over for an unconverted try to extended the home side’s lead to 10-0.
But reigning runners-up Tumbe re-grouped and scored their first points via an unconverted try by winger Boas Minape to trail 4-10.
Tumbe utility Francis Sam showed some individual brilliance to score their second try.
Halfback Josiah Jimmy was successful in adding the extras as both sides went into halftime level at 10-10.
After the break, both teams traded tries as Gurias prop Steven Bruno barged his way over under the uprights and Tumbe centre Christopher Menji sliced through the defence for a converted try each for a 16-16 scoreline.
Poor defence from both sides saw Minape and Gurias opposite Dominic Anis Jr each score a try to increase the scoreline to 22-22.
Three minutes from fulltime, Jimmy proved the difference as he crossed over for a converted try and kicked a field goal to crush any hopes of a Gurias win on home soil.
Impressed with the efforts of his visitors, Tumbe interim coach Ezekiel Ben said they would look to continue the momentum for the remainder of the season in a bid to go one better in the 2022 campaign. Meanwhile, Gurias coach Francis Ray said they would need to re-group and defend better in their next match against Gulf Isou.
By MICHAEL PHILIP