The National, Wednesday July 10th, 2013
By KYMLIE KARANI
IN SPITE of some glaring problems in the set pieces, the PNG Pukpuks were able to rise to the challenge beating Tahiti 39-32 in the second round of the Oceania Cup.
The Cook Islands, in contrast, nullified the Solomon Islands 39-12 yesterday at the Lloyd Robson Oval to set up a winner-takes-all match-up with PNG on Saturday.
The Cook Islanders have been impressive in both their matches thus far and on current form have earned the favourites’ tag for the FORU silverware and a World Cup qualifying berth against Fiji next year.
The Pukpuks have three days to shore up a scrum that was exposed by the Tahitians while the line-out was only marginally better.
An under-estimated Tahiti came out firing in the first half skipper Tunui Anania leading the way for the Polynesians.
A try to prop Martin Taeae had the hosts trailing 7-0 before Pukpuks inside back Robert Bulumaris equalised.
PNG veteran Dougie Guise slipped through to put PNG 12-7 ahead but PNG’s scrum was under constant pressure and fullback Adoni Jimenez got the visitors back in the lead 14-12 of this advantage.
Both sides traded penalties in the with Tahiti edging ahead 17-15.
Speedster Albert Levi swung PNG back on top, 20-17, with a try in the corner.
Tahiti hit back before the break through Taeae, who bulldozed his way over to close out the half with the men in red going to the changerooms 24-20.
Coach Allan Manning brought out tight-head Ryan Samabath in the second half who shored up the faltering Pukpuk scrum.
No.8 Gabriel Biyama, Joshua Vakona and open-side flanker Butler Morris stepped up their efforts in the second 40 but Tahiti used a rolling maul to be the first to score after the break to extend their lead to 29-20.
A desparate PNG pressed for a score but made little inroads into a tight defence.
Morris then burnt a path to try-line in a 50-metre effort to close the gap to 29-27.
The Pukpuks’ better fitness came to the fore with flyhalf Ralph Susuve going over from 5m out to snatch back the lead 34-29.
Tahiti missed several scoring opportunities but where they failed to capitalise the Pukpuks driven by the crowd finished stronger.
Levi raced in for another four-pointer Levi to put the match in the bag at 39-29 in the 73rd minute.
Tahiti flyhalf Alexandre Fournier kicked a penalty in this time but the visitors never got another chance to threaten.
Ladder: Cook Islands 10, PNG 10, Solomon Islands 1, Tahiti 1.
Fixtures: Tahiti vs Solomon Islands 1pm at PRL; PNG vs Cook Islands 3pm at PRL at Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby.