THE Papua New Guinea Hunters’ hopes of securing a top-two spot suffered a setback with a 24-20 loss to the Redcliffe Dolphins yesterday.
In their round 9 clash earlier in the season, the South Pacific Brewery-backed side held off a fast-finishing Dolphins outfit at the National Football Stadium to come out 22-18 winners.
Yesterday in Redcliffe, after managing to stay in contention with a well-taken Edward Goma try just before the halftime siren to trail the hosts 12-6, Michael Marum’s men forgot their first-half effort and pushed the issue against the Queensland Cup’s number two side in an entertaining second 40 minutes.
Despite a clean start to the match between the two finals-bound sides, the Hunters game plan started to break down as they let the Dolphins pack make easy metres up the middle third.
Tries to wing Jonus Pearson (8th minute) and interchange forward Chris Gesch (36th) saw the men in red eke out a well-deserved 12-0 lead but Dolphins fullback Jack Ahearn let an Ase Boas bomb bounce and couldn’t prevent a flying Goma from swooping and planting it under the uprights in the 39th minute.
Both coaches would have been unimpressed with the set completions from the match, which were well below 50 per cent, but not with the intensity and commitment shown by the players.
Less than a minute into the second stanza, Dolphins enforcer Anthony Cherrington, pictured, left the field clutching at his chest and left ribs after a collision involving Hunters hardmen captain Adam Korave and Ishmael Balkawa.
Butler Morris scored his first try for the Hunters in the 44th minute, collecting a Boas cut-out pass to skip past his opposite before putting on an in-and-away on a lunging Ahearn to run around and improve the angle. Boas converted to lock up the scores.
The match was an arm-wrestle as both sides had good periods of play only to come undone with mistakes. Melbourne-bound Justin Olam scooped up a wayward pass to race 70-metres to score under the crossbar and the visitors took the lead (18-12) for the first time by the 55th minute. Korave earned a penalty with 12 minutes to go and Boas kicked his side to an eight-point lead at 20-12.
But the home side weren’t about to miss their chance to score their first win against the northerners and back-rower Daniel Bridge muscled his way to the left goal post and was awarded a try by referee Christopher Anderson even though there was no conclusive proof to show he’d grounded the ball in the 74th minute.
At 20-18 with five minutes remaining, the Hunters had to play territory and keep the Dolphins inside their half but as in Origin III, the side trailing tends to lift for that short period and so did Redcliffe.
Christian Hazard scored the match-winner in the 78th minute after taking a short ball from prop Charlie Faingaa 10m out of the Hunters line as their defence was in disarray after a last gasp surge by the Dolphins.
Halfback Darren Nicholls converted to give Redcliffe their first win over the Hunters.
Dolphins 24 (Jonus Pearson, Chris Gesch, Daniel Bridge, Christian Hazard tries; Darren Nicholls 4 con) Hunters 20 (Edward Goma, Butler Morris, Justin Olam tries; Ase Boas 3 con, pen)
Results: Sat, July 16: Devils 12 Falcons 26, Blackhawks 20 Bears 26, Jets 38 Cutters 6, WM Seagulls 28 Pride 8; Sun, July 17: Capras 16 TH Seagulls 18, Dolphins 24 Hunters 20, Magpies 20 Tigers 10.