The National, Friday 03rd August 2012
THE Digicel Cup’s top five teams would want wins under their belts this weekend to cement their finals positions as the rugby league competition nears its end.
With two games remaining, leaders Agmark Rabaul Gurias, Enga Mioks, SNS Port Moresby Vipers, SBS Mendi Muruks and Bintangor Goroka Lahanis look the most likely finals teams but need to put the issue to bed with victories.
Reigning champions Lahanis’ title defence got a massive boost this week when WGS Mt Hagen Eagles were effectively put out of contention after being stripped of six points by the PNGNRL board.
The Eagles were not the only ones to suffer that ignominy, with Mioks also being pegged back a couple of points for failing to meet levy payments. The Mioks will also be rueing a lost opportunity to challenge for the minor premiership after surrendering their joint lead to the Kokopo-based Gurias.
The New Guinea Islanders need just two of their last three matches to be assured of the minor title.
The Gurias lock horns with third-placed Vipers in Port Moresby on Sunday in what is expected to be the match of the round. Last time the two teams met was at the Gurias’ graveyard, Kalabond, where the home side held off the Vipers for a gritty 18-12 victory.
It will be a real test for Radaaz boys as they have lost all their away games to their fellow top five teams this season.
This will be Gurias’ second visit to Port Moresby since Week 6 when they thrashed the Gulf Isapeas 30-18.
But the Gurias are bringing some serious form into the encounter having racked up 166 points over their past three matches against the Lahanis, Isapeas and Lions.
The Vipers will have to be on high alert if they are to stand a chance of stopping the Juggernaut that is the Rabaul Gurias.
In the 1300 Digicel Cup match between TNA Simbu Lions and Isapeas has been rescheduled to POM due to continued election activities at the host venue. The Lions will have the bitter memories of their Round 8 defeat to the Isapeas still fresh in the minds and will be looking to keep the Isapea rooted to the bottom of the ladder for the second year running when they both do battle this week. The Isapea on the other hand have proven to be a torn in the backside for many sides all season and will not go down without a fight such as the spirit of the Crocodile their team moniker is known for. The Lions Vs Isapeas will serve as an appetizer for the main course between the Vipers and Gurias at 3pm.
In Lae, Enga Mioks look to consolidate second spot on the ladder when they face the fourth placed SBSL Mendi Muruks. A massive crowd is anticipated to flock to the Lae League Oval to cheer on their team with many Engan and Southern Highlanders residing in and around Lae.
Meanwhile the WGS Mt Hagen Eagles host the Snax Lae Tigers at their Rebiamul home ground in Mt Hagen. Both sides with no chances of making it through to the finals only have pride to play for when they put their bodies on the line this Sunday. The Eagles have an impressive home ground record and the it doesn’t seem likely to change with the arrival of the Tigers.
With the Eagles now on 14 points and the Lahanis on 18 points, their only hope of reaching the finals was if the Lahanis lost their remaining two games and the Eagles win both of their last matches. However with a bye for the Lahanis this weekend that guarantees an easy two competition points, the Eagles can look forward to making plans for next year.