THE Toyota Mioks exploded into contention for the bemobile Cup for the first time in 12 years with a brutal 18-10 preliminary final win over the Bintangor Lahanis in Port Moresby yesterday.
The Engans are certainly the surprise package of the season in the nation’s premier rugby league
competition, as they were all but written off when they were gripped by an administrative crisis that threatened a mass exodus by the entire team during the games leading to the finals.
They also proved their critics wrong over perceptions that their recent spate of giant-killing feats were flukes, when they put paid to the highly fancied and former holders Lahanis at the Lloyd Robson Oval yesterday to land a grand final berth against Agmark NGIP Guria next weekend.
It was sweet revenge at the right time, according to captain and man of the match David Ako, after they were defeated by the Lahanis in the final game of the normal round of the competition in Lae a couple of weeks ago.
Ako said his boys went into the match focused on one thing – to oust the Lahanis and progress to the grand final after 12 years of trying.Mioks did not waste opportunities from the outset posting the first points through a try just two minutes after kick-off, when underrated winger, Jason Tali latched onto a flat pass from halfback Mose Lame 10m out from the Lahani line to scoot over in the corner.
The conversion attempt by fullback Thomas Kumgi was unsuccessful but the Engans maintained their momentum with rampaging second rower James Gend crashing over under the upright after being set up by hooker Joe Goni.
Kumgi collected the extras and the Engans were off to a flying 10-0 start.
The Lahanis lifted a gear after that try and struck back in the 14th minute with a converted try to centre Kevin Inagafa, who pounced on a loose ball and dashed 40m to reply for the Apos.
The next 20 minutes of the first half was a brutal affair as Ako led the young Mioks forwards of Timothy Clement, Joe Goni, Esau Siune and David Loko in brutal defensive and single-minded attack that pointed to an all-out assault to batter their opponents into submission.
Their rivals Nigel Hukula, John Milba, George Abba, Limu Willie and Wesley Wiseman had their work cut out for them as they found the Engans a handful.
The Engans had their way when Jason Tali latched onto Loko’s offload on the blind side and fended off several half-hearted Lahanis defenders to score his second try and extending their lead to 14-6 going into the half-time break.
The match turned physical in the second stanza, with players from both sides losing their cool forcing referee Moses Tolingling at a juncture to send Lahanis forward Wiseman and Mioks’ Timothy Clement to the sinbin for 10 minutes each for exchanging punches in the tackle.
The Lahanis were quick to regather their composure posting a second try to Inagafa in the 45th minute to instill some hope of a late surge.
Hasu however, failed the conversion and put the pride of Enga onto the offensive urged on by a partisan crowd, who flooded the Lloyd Robson Oval to cheer their “countrymen” on.
A set move orchestrated by replacement utility back Mose Lame deceived the Lahanis’ defence and saw the ball land in fullback Kumgi’s hands for a try out wide in the 75th minute.
Thereafter, it was just a matter of time to keep the Lahanis out from their tryline.
“I’m satisfied with that performance but now we’re looking to the grand final next week with the Gurias,” Mioks coach Toksy Nema said.
Lahanis mentor Peter Danga commended the efforts of his men for coming this far.
“We surprised ourselves by making it this far in the bemobile Cup when you consider that the majority, about 70% of the Lahanis are rookies, its an outstanding effort,” Danga said.
He was, however, confident that the experience would give them the best preparation for next year’s campaign.
With the win, the Toyota Enga Mioks are one game away from claiming the country’s top rugby league prize after a 12-year drought.
The Mioks will welcome back regular halfback Mai Tom and forward Kerry Tapako to the squad after both were unavailable for the match.
Mioks 18: J Tali (2), J Gende, T Kumgi tries, Kumgi goal beat Lahanis 10: K Inagafa (2), Hasu goal.