By LARRY ANDREW
COACH Roderick Puname praised his Mendi Muruks for rebounding from their first defeat of 2021 with a 30-20 win over Mt Hagen Eagles in round six of the Digicel Cup in Lae on Sunday.
“The win was good for our confidence,” the former SP Hunters assistant coach said.“It was scrappy at times, but it was great to return to the winner’s circle.”
Eager to put their last-start Goroka Lahanis loss behind them, the Roderick Puname-coached Muruks opened the scoring with a try through Clent Lama and No.7 Joshia Jimmy added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
Jimmy bagged two more penalty goals to give the Petroleum Resources Kutubu-sponsored Muruks a 10-0 advantage over the Wamp Nga-backed Eagles at the Lae Rugby League Ground.
The Eagles replied with an unconverted try through centre Desmond Michael to trail 4-10 at halftime.
After the break, the Muruks added their third penalty goal before captain Wessa Tenza crossed over for a converted try to give Puname’s men a handy 18-4 lead.
The Billy Gau-coached Eagles, determined to stay in the grind, stepped up their attacked as skipper Henry Wan and his men threatened the Muruks defence and were reward with a converted try through five-eighth Garry James to trail 10-18.
With the game in the balance, Muruks forwards Jojo Wallames, Bernard Goma, Nelson Yei, Julius Yakopa and Ishmael Balkawa began to punch through the Eagles defence, creating an opening for Yei to make a break before he set up Leon Undipia off an Eagles mistake to score out wide.
The Muruks were in front by two converted tries despite the missed conversion.
The Eagles hit back with two tries to bring Gau’s men to within two points of the Muruks (20-22), but their fightback ran out of steam as Jimmy slotted home the Muruks’ fourth penalty goal and winger Bob Tenza crossed over for a converted try to seal the win.
Gau said they needed to work on their right-edge defence as most of the Muruks’ tries were scored there.
“The opposition found an easy passage through that edge, so we need to be a lot better if we are to make the finals,” he said.
By LARRY ANDREW