By JACK AMI
MENDI Muruks’ rugby union convert Wesley Vali is fast-becoming a cult hero for his home town after a starring performance in last Sunday’s Digicel Cup round nine clash against the Lae Tigers.
Despite losing 24-22, Vali scored all his side’s points, including three conversions and two penalties.
The fullback played a lone hand helping his side fight their way back into the game after trailing 18-6 at halftime.
The 21-year-old mesmerised the Tigers defence with his pace and ability to create attacking opportunities with limited space and time.
Possessing a step and a swerve that served him well in his time in the Pukpuks sevens squad, Vali scored from long range, as well as dodging and slipping tackles and running good lines and showing great anticipation on attack.
Vali’s first try was a classy 80-metre effort that caught the normally smart and reliable Tigers defence by surprise.
The next two required pace but also tackle-breaking ability which Vali seemed to have plenty off.
The Mendi born and raised, whose parents are from East New Britain and East Sepik, Vali considers himself a “Mangi Mendi” and said he was proud to be playing for the town’s famous rugby league club in the semi-professional competition. The home crowd at Joe Keviame Oval in Tente lapped up the youngster’s performance but left the field disappointed when the visitors managed to score a late try in the 77th minute to get in front.
The game was then called off prematurely after Muruks fans started throwing debris on to the field some of which hit match officials.
The Muruks management disputed the time keeper’s accuracy saying there should have been more time on the clock.
Even though his side were pipped at the post there could be no denying Vali’s talent and potential to be one of the finds of the competition in 2016.
Vali’s duel with fellow Tigers speed merchants Anderson Benford and rookie Macdonald Alowali was a highlight of the game with fans enjoying the exchanges and display of skill and pace.
Tigers rugged centre Pasu Awane may have claimed the man of the match but Vali was certainly a star performer.
By JACK AMI