By KEITH PUARIA
DARKHORSES, Madang Madgauns did the impossible yesterday at the SCRUM oval during the JKT Lim Mamas Cordial Trans Highway Sevens Cup final, by toppling National Champions and favourites, Kimbe Rebels- 24-17 for the top K10,000 prize money.
Against all odds, and with “retired” Pukpuk legend Paul Joseph on song, even on wobbly knees, the Madang men displayed the true style of sevens rugby – fun and enjoyment, even when the pressure was on.
Joseph returned to form without the trademark goose-step and some of the old pace and guile guiding his troops around the field and shadowed by personal guard and man mountain Tui Faiota.
Rebels, clearly under pressure throughout the tournament, scraping home against newcomers NGI Wairas 19-14 in one of their two pool matches the previous day, only had themselves to blame for the loss.
Played in fading light, the Cup final went to the break with both sides locked at 12-12, after a tight first half.
Former PNG Sevens flier Gare Ponda outpaced the entire Madgaun line in a sparkling 70m dash for the line, but it was the finishing prowess of Madang’s Danny Polong that stole the show on half time.
The second half brought two very determined sides to the field, but poor handling did not help the Rebels cause, as they fumbled consecutive possessions throughout the final 10 minutes, eventually leading to their inability to build on their lead.
With clear signs of panic in their opponents, “old man” Joseph again orchestrated a blindside movement to set up the match winner, following it up and topping off a great tournament with the conversion from the sideline, for the final score.
Non-commitment in defence by the Rebels, was also to blame for their loss.
“It’s a good feeling,” Joseph, who is the president of Madang rugby, said afterward.
“We have worked so hard over the years, to be competitive on the national scene, and I guess it paid off today.
“It only gets harder now. We will give ourselves a little pat on the back, and then get down to it again.”
The Cup final ended an entertaining two days of rugby for the organisers and sponsors, with participating teams coming from around the country, and exhibiting true running rugby in Lae.
“We’re very pleased with the organisation and running of this tournament. It was great to see the different teams from around the country. Scrum intends to do a lot more for rugby,” Scrum committee representative Anthony Whitfield said.
“Dispela emi fest taim, tasol mipela i ken kam bek gen. Displa fainel em i pinisim wanpla gutepla tonament turu, na mipla i hamamas olsem mipela i pat blong em (This is our first time, and hopefully we will be back again. This tournament was very successful and we are happy to be a part of it),” major sponsor JKT Lim representative Michael Yukis said.
Newcomers Mt Hagen bagged the Bowl, and K1,000 with a show stopping 22-17 win in extra time over Madang Kalibobos, while Goroka Kilituais took out the Plate and K2,000, in their 27-24 win over Lae Harlequins.
Cup runners up, Kimbe Rebels received K5,000.