By HUXLEY LOVAI
The SP PNG Hunters started their Queensland Cup title defence with a 22-12 win at home over a gritty Ipswich Jets side at the Oil Search National Football Stadium in Port Moresby yesterday.
The win by the Hunters marked coach Michael Marum’s 100th game in-charge of the Hunters since their inception in 2013 and inclusion into the Queensland Cup in 2014.
Marum’s record now stands at 67 wins, 29 losses and four draws at the helm of the Hunters.
Marum’s jokingly told the media yesterday, “It’s just one of those games, it’s an honour to be coaching at this level.
“To get 100 games, I try to hide my stats but eventually it gets out. It’s good coaching against some of the best rugby league players from the past,” Marum said.
Half back Watson Boas scored a brace of tries in the first half opening the scoring with a converted try, thanks to brother Ase who collected the extra two.
The Jets, however, responded well with centre Pio Seci driving over in the corner in the 13th minute for a converted try to draw, thanks to Jets kicker Wes Conlon.
The Jets were disadvantaged by the loss of their half back Dane Phillips who sat out the rest of the match due to a concussion after receiving a blow to the head nine minutes into the fame.
The trademark lateral style of rugby league employed by the Jets lost its potency once Phillips left the field, regardless the Jets stuck to their game plan as they tried to stretch the Hunters defence.
A darting run from fullback Adex Wera saw him cross the line in the 28th minute to give the Hunters the lead once more with a converted try, before Boas scored his second on the stroke of half time to bring the it to 16-6 in favour of the Hunters.
Handling errors plagued both teams which limited their attacking opportunities.
But the Jets had a tough run the whole afternoon against their own blunders coupled with the Hunters’ committed defence.
The Jets were finally able to cross the line in the 70th minute with a converted try to captain Nathaniel Neale to bring the score to 16-12 making the final 10 minutes nervous for players and fans alike.
However, in true Hunters attacking fashion, captain Ase Boas secured the win with a try in the dying seconds to bring the final score to 22-12.
Commenting post-match Marum said he was encouraged by the Hunters’ defensive effort in the second half given their limited possession of the ball.
“Defensively we were good, we didn’t have much football in the second half but we kept defending, turning up for each other,” Marum said.
Jets co-coach Shane Walker commented, “We turned over quite a bit of ball, it was a bit of a clunky match actually with a lot of turn-overs. In the first game of the year, there’s a lot to like about the fact that we held well and hung in there given the amount of ball we kept turning over.”
By HUXLEY LOVAI