By LARRY ANDREW
THE Mendi Muruks’ hopes of claiming the 2021 Digicel Cup minor premiership title were dashed by Port Moresby Vipers who ground out a 6-0 win over the ladder leaders in their round 11 game in Lae yesterday.
The result saw the Snax Lae Tigers, who beat the Kimbe Cutters 22-18, regain No.1 spot and the minor premiership after the final round of the semi-professional rugby league competition.
The Joe Sipa-coached Moni Plus Vipers registered the game’s only points through a try to prop Fedro Gene who forced a grubber by five-eighth Yunny Patrick in typically muddy conditions at the Lae Rugby League ground. The Vipers No.6 then converted the try for a 6-0 lead they managed to defend despite coming under intense pressure from the Southern Highlanders all afternoon.
Coach Sipa congratulated Muruks coach Rodrick Puname and his men for a strong game and admitted that the weather and field conditions did not suit a more open style of football.
He also commended his side’s resilience in defence and their mental strength.
“For us in winning this game it was defence that stood out and since taking up the coaching role we wanted to win all our remaining games and gain momentum heading into the finals,” Sipa said.
“We respected our opponents but stood strong on defence. In playing against a tough team like Mendi, you must control your sets and defend well to win. For us to win the game 6-0, it was a tough match and we are happy to be in the top six and the momentum of this game will take us through.”
Puname said his side’s completion rate was very poor compared to the Vipers who were hungrier and determined to get the two points.
“The effort was not there on both defence and attack, that’s something we will go and fix and come back again,” he said.
“We kept on dropping the ball in the first and second tackles and didn’t have the opportunity to really attack the Vipers defence and put pressure on ourselves which cost us the game in the end. Depending on how the ladder of the competition is, we’ll see where we are, if we are going to play next week or the following,” Puname told The National.
The Muruks finished third and will play sixth-placed Agmark Rabaul Gurias in the first week of the finals while the Vipers, who finished fourth play fifth-placed Kroton Hela Wigmen.
The top two sides, Lae and Waghi Tumbe, have the first week of the finals off.
Vipers 6 (Fedro Gene Try, Yunng Patrick 1 Con) Muruks 0. HT: 6-0 (Vipers) at Lae Rugby League Oval.
By LARRY ANDREW