Lae eyes top five

Normal, Sports

The National, Friday August 2nd, 2013

 THE last time the Lae Tigers and Gulf Isapea met the match was called off ahead of time.

That Round 8 clash, at the Lloyd Robson Oval, was called off in the 74th minute after a brawl involving several players.

Fines and suspensions were dished out by the PNG NRL as a result and since then both sides have gone separate ways.

The Tigers will secure a top five spot with a victory at the Lae Rugby League ground on Sunday in the crucial Round 17 encounter.

The Isapea, on the other hand, are playing for pride. On nine points with  fellow strugglers the Mt Hagen Eagles, the Gulf side is in a two-way dogfight with the Western Highlanders to avoid the wooden spoon. 

They would want to finish their season off with victories against the Tigers and Mendi Muruks in Port Moresby.

The Snax-sponsored Tigers have had a torrid last four weeks on the road having lost to the Enga Mioks 30-6, Port Moresby Vipers 26-16, Muruks 37-20 and Goroka Lahanis 18-16.

The Tigers, however, are unbeaten at home this season – six wins and two draws – and will target the Isapea game as one they should and must win.

Tigers firebrand Fijian prop Petero Sunivalu is gunning to blow apart the visitors.

Fresh from the recently completed Kumul Camp 4, Sunivalu has the next month to show selectors what he is capable of in 2013.

Tigers coach Stanley Tepend knows his charges play well on their home ground, and the fiery Sunivalu is a popular figure every time he runs out.

The hard-running Fijian, who has a tinge of New Ireland blood in him, wants to erase memories of their last meeting.

This time around, the new addition to the Kumuls train-on squad has found renewed vigour to make a sizeable contribution.

Sunivalu and his fellow forwards in the engine room including Mogi Wei Jnr, Roy Kela, Sydney Fred, Kot Kerowa, Elvis Dick and Joe Kingal have to to assert their authority to come away with victory.

The Isapea seemed to have lost their way when they slipped out of contention for the playoffs, but will look to Nixon Kolo and Sigfried Gande get stuck into the Tigers.

In Kokopo, second-placed Agmark Gurias who have been plagued with injuries to their senior players including playmaker Dion Aiye (hamstring) can expect a stiff challenge against from the Simbu Lions in Kundiawa.

Gurias coach Michael Marum yesterday said: “We might have Ase Boas returning but the young players that have done the job to keep us in the top three will maintain their spots for Kundiawa.”

The lions have nothing to lose for and will certainly be keen to return the favour to the Gurias following their 34-8 demise at Kalabond in Round 8.  

In Mendi, while the Enga Mioks are in great form, they will find the Hela Wigmen a tough nut to break at the Joe Keviame Oval.

Wigmen coach Stanley Hondina knows the playoffs are out of the question but his charges have prepared well and with some good signs for the future they will press the Engans.

In Goroka, competition leaders Bintagor Goroka Lahanis will have to be at their best to handle the Mendi Muruks. 

The Muruks strike players in Andrew Buka and Malachi Owen, in the forwards plus the nippy Richard Mapi and Joshua Molsie are coming with nothing to lose.

In Port Moresby, the injury-riddled Vipers may be on the receiving end of a defiant Mt Eagles eager to show cause after a dreadful season.