The National,Monday March 21st, 2016
By JACK AMI
A STRONG defensive effort saw the Papua New Guinea Hunters earn a 20-18 win over the Tweed Heads Seagulls at the National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, on Saturday night.
The home side trailed 18-14 with 11 minutes to go in the Round 3 Intrust Super Cup clash but a try by reserve back Atte Bina in the 70th minute saw the Hunters edge out to a two-point lead with eight minutes remaining in a game where the visiting Seagulls proved more than a match in all areas.
The South Pacific Brewery-sponsored side lead 14-10 at halftime and in the end both sides scored three tries a piece with the unerring boot of Hunters co-captain Noel Zeming (4/4) the difference.
The Hunters drew first blood with a penalty goal by Zeming in the 9th minute.
Worryingly five-eighth and play-maker Ase Boas was forced off in the 16th minute clutching a left hamstring and coach Michael Marum had no hesitation sending in utility Bina to plug the gap.
The Seagulls were unfazed by the estimated 10,000 strong home crowd and repeat sets in the Hunters 20m saw dread-locked centre James Wood cut through for the game’s opening try.
The visitors led 4-2 after winger Nathaniel Barnes failed to convert. By the 25th minute Marum had on all his reserves with co-captain Adam Korave and Edward Goma filling in as props as bookends Esau Siune and Henry Wan had been brought off while Adex Wera was also on the field playing a forward role in the middle third.
Halfback Watson Boas then scored for the Hunters taking on the defence close to the line. The 21-year-old took a pass at first receiver, threw a dummy and pierced the line reaching out to plant it on the white chalk.
Zeming added the extras for an 8-4 lead but the Hunters could not break away on the board despite getting their customary second wind.
Edward Goma crashed over for his side’s second try after hooker Wartovo Puara Jr strolled through a yawning gap in the Seagulls’ defence 30m out to hand off to a supporting Wera who turned it back to Goma, normally a centre, who had enough pace to get over the line to make it 14-4.
The visitors came back strongly with five-eighth Samuel Erwin skipping through the Hunters defence after selling a dummy as the Tweed applied their own pressure at the opposite end of the field.
The second half started off badly for the Hunters who put the restart out on the full.
Mistakes from both sides saw the match restricted to the area between opposing 20m lines.
Korave was placed on report for a stiff arm tackle that left Seagulls centre Shaun Carney dazed and groggy.
Korave, who would go on to play close to 60 minutes, was inspirational with his strong runs and aggressive defence.
The visitors earned a penalty for a strip in the 54th minute and Barnes stepped up to close the gap to two at 14-12.
The try of the match was scored by Tweed fullback Shannon Walker, who latched onto a pass after a set play out of dummy half 40m out saw the ball change hands three times in a narrow corridor only for the jet-heeled Aborignial to slice through an opening, burn the cover defence before stepping inside Hunters No.1 Stargroth Amean to dot down under the uprights.
Barnes potted the goal and the NSW-based club was in front 18-14 for the first and looking dangerous with a little over 20 minutes to go.
Marum rushed back Wan and Siune back and straight away the yardage gained up the middle put the Hunters on the front foot.
Wan’s ability to hit the defensive line and continue forward carrying tacklers for several metres was a sight to behold as was Siune’s old school penchant for straight hard running. With Bina’s individual effort putting the Hunters in the lead, the match was still anybody’s and the Tweed were a given a great chance for one last tilt at the Hunters line with 30 seconds on the clock.
But a superbly timed hit by winger Justin Olam jolted the ball loose on a Tweed runner and ended the set and game with the home side hanging on for victory.
PNG Hunters 20 (Watson Boas, Edward Goma, Atte Bina tries; Noel Zeming 3 con, pen) Tweed Heads Seagulls 18 (James Wood, Samuel Irwin, Shannon Walker tries; Nathaniel Barnes 2 con, pen) at NFS. Halftime: 14-10 Hunters.
Results: ISC Round 3 – Sat, March 19: Burleigh Bears 14 Sunchine Coast Falcons 36, Townsville Blackhawks 46 Souths Logan Magpies 26, Central Queensland Capras 23 Ipswich Jets 14, Norths Devils 28 Northern Pride 20, PNG Hunters 20 Tweed Heads Seagulls 18; Sun, March 20: Mackay Cutters 22 Easts Tigers 26, Wynnum Manly 6 Redcliffe Dolphins 38.
Standings: Townsville Blackhawks 6, Papua New Guinea SP Hunters 6, Easts Tigers 4, Central Queensland Capras 4, Burleigh Bears 4, Sunshine Coast Falcons 4, Devils 4, Redcliffe Dolphins 2, Northern Pride 2, Ipswich Jets 2, Tweed Heads Seagulls 2, Souths Logan Magpies 2, Mackay Cutters 0, Wynnum Manly Seagulls 0.