Hunters welcome back Alu, Kapinias


THE SP Hunters head to Queensland’s Maryborough on Saturday determined to again push Intrust Super Cup heavyweights Wynnum Manly Seagulls to the brink after their thrilling clash to open the season.
The Seagulls won their first nine matches in 2021, with their smallest winning margin a 20-18 victory against the Hunters in round one.The Seagulls have since lost their past three games while their Brisbane Broncos-contracted players have been unavailable because of the National Rugby League’s coronavirus bubble.
Wynnum’s recent form, and the Hunters’ memory of striking back from a 12-point deficit against them in round one, will give coach Matthew Church’s outfit the confidence that they are capable of an upset if they can find more consistency over 80 minutes.
The Hunters displayed some of their best attacking form against the Mackay Cutters last Saturday with six well-constructed team tries that took them to a 30-14 lead early in the second half, only seven days after an impressive 34-22 victory over eight-placed Northern Pride.
However, the inexperienced Hunters were outgunned in the last 25 minutes, conceding four converted tries.
Church said his team must use that as a reminder of how tough the competition was with any team capable of a win on any given day.
The Hunters have the advantage of skipper and lock Ila Alu back from injury (head knock) to lead the side for another country road trip and the services of prop Epel Kapinias (returning from an ankle injury) for only the eighth time this season.
“There is still a gap between our good performances and bad performances and last week showed that’s where we need to be better,” Church said.
“The week before we beat the Pride who then came out and beat Wynnum last weekend by 30 points.
“And we took Wynnum right to the last minute of the game in round one, so we know what we are capable when we get things right.”
Dilbert Isaac drops from the starting line-up to the interchange bench to make way for Alu while Kapinias replaces Sylvester Namo on the bench.
Hunters: Terry Wapi, Junior Rau, Brandon Nima, Brendon Gutono, Solo Wane, Ase Boas, Charlie Simon, Stanton Albert, Wartovo Puara Jr, Enock Maki, Emmanuel Waine, Benji Kot, Ila Alu (captain); Interchange – Judah Rimbu, Dilbert Isaac, Epel Kapinias, Edwin Ipape.