By MELTON PAIS
FIRST time Digicel Cup finalists Giru Waghi Tumbe are not taking any chances when they take on the Bintangor Goroka Lahanis in the preliminary final on Sunday.
The Tumbe, who finished third after the regular season, flew into Port Moresby from Lae on Monday and went straight into camp which included time in Sogeri, with coach Francis Ray saying senior players Kumuls Garry Lo and Henry Wan were battling injures after their 16-6 major semifinal loss to the Enga Mioks last Sunday.
“With due respect to the Lahanis, I must say that we will not be easy on them because we have let down our people and sponsor in Lae last weekend and we do not want to repeat the same mistake here,” Ray said.
Ray, a former Kumul forward, has built the Tumbe into rugged pack complemented by hard-running backs, with Lo’s midseason addition adding to the Jiwaka side’s game.
However, Ray admitted that the Eastern Highlanders were in great form having won nine games on the trot and had knocked off defending champions Lae Tigers in the first week of the playoffs and then backed it up with a 14-12 win over the Agmark Gurias last Sunday in the minor semifinal.
The Lahanis loss was to the Tumbe in round 11 where Ray’s men beat the Lahanis 24-20 away.
“They beat the Tigers and the Gurias so we know they are confident and in form so they won’t be easy,” he said.
Ray said his side’s main issue was completing their sets and said they would be committed to playing clean, hard football on Sunday.
“We didn’t stick to our plans last week against the Mioks and they beat us but I know we can bounce back from that.
“We have improved over the season, especially on defence and we have the game to beat Lahanis.”
Ray hinted that his side had yet to fulfil its offensive ability and that being in a do-or-die match could bring out their best.
“We’ve focused on our attacking sets so we can get points.”
The Tumbe are likely to have a couple of changes to their side but Ray said he would give the players up to game day.
The Lahanis on the other end are looking to make a grand final for the first time since 2011.
Goroka coach Glen Nami said his team were riding a wave of good form having won their last seven regular season games before winning two playoff matches, but they had not forgotten their poor start to the season and their struggles.
“We have came a long way with struggles and as much as possible, we want to end the season on a high note,” Nami said.
Nami said his men needed to stay disciplined in order to have a chance in the preliminary final and despite having won nine games in a row, every game was a new challenge.
The Lahanis are in Goroka and fly into town on Saturday. Sunday’s winner takes on the Enga Mioks in the grand final on Sept 2.
“We have been giving away a lot of easy penalties and we have to be better in that area,” Nami said.
“We’ve got to defend better as well because Tumbe have some fast guys.”
Nami agreed with Ray that controlling the sets and making fewer mistakes would be key to victory.
By MELTON PAIS