The National, Monday, June 6th 2011
By GABRIEL LAHOC
THE visiting Hela Wigmen were punished yesterday by Lae Snax Tigers despite a late fight back, going down 36-18 in the Digicel Cup round five game in Lae.
A lacklustre Wigmen defence proved costly, while a tweaked Tigers’ line up resulted in Lae running in seven tries to the Hela’s three.
After Tigers’ halfback Peter Peyala missed a penalty, the Joe Verani-coached side opened the scorebook through a try to Benson Joel with the difficult conversion kicked by lock forward Sydney Fred.
Joel, who was dropped from the Lae side previously as Lae Bombers’ fullback and then manage to get back into the new named franchise, fired from the right wing and managed a second try giving the host a 10-0 lead.
Russ Kaupa Jr also grabbed his first try after diving on a loose ball howeverPeyala missed the conversion.
Wigmen’s effort lacked any real penetration before halfback Justin Kuza stepped up for a solo try with a dazzling run after grabbing a chip and registering their first try and conversion himself.
Those six points remained for the first half, while the Tigers managed another converted try to newcomer Bernard Tatsim Jr and went to the half time break leading 20-6.
Back from the break, the Tigers maintained their composure which saw Peyala and second rower Joe Wemin scoring back-to-back converted tries which silenced part of the crowd who had come to see the Hela franchise.
The match heated up in the last 15 minutes with more aggression from both sides at contact.
Wigmen captain Larson Marabe kept his team’s hopes alive through a try which was again converted by Kuza.
Tigers’ foward Jerry Kutz and Wigmen’s international Nixon Kolo were the main enforcers for their teams, with Kutz ably supported by Joe Wemin, Wanpis James and young firebrand Bernard Pos who made his debut last weekend in Port Moresby.
With 10 minutes remaining, the Tigers capitalised on an unforced error by Wigmen prop Joel Pumas who dropped the ball right infront of his uprights.
From the ensuing scrum with a clear line in front of him Kaupa Jr (who could have scored his third try) unselfishly handed off the ball to Wemin who strolled into the try line for their last try.
After a tireless 70 minutes, Wigmen and Kumuls winger Michael Mark beat his opposite to score a consolation try which saw his team post 18 for the day.
An all-out brawl almost erupted in the 78th minute but quick action by match officials and the players themselves dissuaded further violence.
However, the conduct of several Tigers officials in uniform, who were seen throwing missiles into the crowd gave a poor impression of their attitude.
Kolo was sent off after the incident but it was of little consequence as the fulltime siren had already sounded by then.
The Wigmen have only won one match so far this season and have a draw to the name as well for three points and sit second last on the Digicel Cup ladder.
Meanwhile, Tigers have hit a purple patch after a slow start to the season and out-played a team that boasts seven current Kumuls.
Kutz, Peyala and company seem to have found the mojo again.
Tigers take on Eagles in Lae next week which should see another good crowd come to see the revitalised Lae franchise try to make it three in a row.