By LARRY ANDREW
THE Snax Lae Tigers took a step closer to securing a third minor premiership with a well-earned 32-12 win over the visiting SNS Port Moresby Vipers in their Digicel Cup Round 13 clash in Lae yesterday.
The six tries to two win sees the Tigers move to 23 points while the Wamp Nga Hagen Eagles stayed in contention (21) for a top finish with three games to go securing a hard-fought 11-4 win over the PRK Mendi Muruks at Rebiamul Oval.
The Lae game was not without drama as both sides had something to say about referee Aaron Harry’s calls.
Tigers winger Billy Paul was put on report while Vipers five-eighth Peter Palus was sinned binned.
Tigers put the first points on the board when winger Anderson Benford dove over with halfback Rex Hepeo converting for a 6-0 lead.
The homeside added two more tries to fullback Robert Vuai and centre Charles Martin with Hepeo slotting one more conversion for a 16-0 lead.
Tigers expansive play was possible through a dominant pack led by David Loko.
Vipers forwards Richard Kambo, Mark Piti, Samuel Koim, Aaron Tokopae and Patrick Morea rose to the challenge. The Vipers reply came through reserve Raymond Tia, who carried three Tigers players with him over the tryline. Fullback Quintan Ragi converted to trail 16-6.
The visitors edged closer thanks to a penalty for holding down in the tackle and Ragi kicked the goal to reduce the deficit to eight (16-8).
The second half was a physical battle as Harry struggled to keep the game from turning into a brawl.
Lae added three more tries with hooker Noel Joel adding two goals while Ragi crossed for a try.
Tigers 32 (A.Benford, R.Vuai, C.Martin, P.Awane, B.Lama, R.Hepeo tries; Heapo 2 con, N.Joel 2 con) Vipers 12 (R.Tia, Q.Ragi tries; Ragi con, pen) HT: 16-8 (Tigers) at Lae Rugby League Ground.
By LARRY ANDREW