By LARRY ANDREW
LAE Tigers continued their perfect start and retained pole spot with a 38-10 home win over Gulf Isou in round five of the Digicel Cup on Sunday.
The Tigers-Isou clash was brought forward as the first game of the Lae Rugby league Ground double-header after Kimbe Cutters arrived in the Morobe capital on the day — 24 hours later than scheduled.
The Tigers opened the scoring via an unconverted try to rake Noel Joel who returned to the Lae Biscuit Company-sponsored side after his exit from the Agmark Rabaul Gurias.
The hosts extended their lead to 10-0 with a try through lock Nuabe Kuipa and Joshua Lau added the extras in Lae’s first 2021 Digicel Cup match played in front of a crowd.
Sevens rugby union convert Max Vali helped stretched the Tigers’ lead to 16-0 when he made a break on the left edge and set up Lau for the first of his two tries which halfback Jamie Mavoko converted.
Isou’s ordinary defence saw young Tigers second-rower Sherwin Tanabi bursting through to set up Lau for his second try to give coach Stanley Tepend’s men a 20-0 lead.
The visitors, however, managed to crack the Tigers defence through centre Makara Hura who crossed over for an unconverted try to trail 4-20.
With play inside the opposing territory, veteran Isou halfback Roger Laka put in a poor fifth-tackle kick which was fielded by Tigers’ Anderson Benford who kept the ball alive for Stanley Olo to set up Vali for a try under the uprights.
Mavoko made sure of the conversion to give the Tigers a handy 26-4 lead.
After the break, Isou re-grouped and muscled up in defence to pin the Tigers in their own territory and were rewarded with a converted try through bench forward Michael Toane.
But the Tigers had the last laugh when they split the visiting defence for Joel to complete his double and second-rower Lionel Molpoyo bagged a try to seal the victory.
Isou coach Bagelo Solien said the Tigers had the game wrapped up in the first half.
“We didn’t react well to the early tries,” he said.
“The Tigers had too much speed which enabled them to kick ahead in the first half.
“We had a good talk in the sheds and came out with a better performance in the second half, but it was already too late.
“Everything that we were supposed to do in the first half, we did after the break.
“We missed too many tackles and our defence crumbled in the first half.”
By LARRY ANDREW