The National, Wednesday July 18th, 2012
By KEITH PUARIA
The Port Moresby Vipers may be staring down the barrel of another disappointing season after dropping to fourth with last Sunday’s 20-32 loss to a resurgent Mendi Muruks.
Although this Sunday’s week 15 Snax Tigers clash at the PRL is an ‘almost guaranteed’ two pointer in the face of the Lae-based side’s disappointing run all season, the city team faces a daunting task in the remaining three weeks of the Digicel Cup race.
The Vipers play away to reigning champions Goroka Lahanis in week 16, Agmark Gurias at home and then WGS Mt Hagen Eagles away in the final week.
Their away record of two wins from five is not encouraging.
The city side’s finals chances slimmed even further with revelations this week that ‘X-factor’ Larsen Marabe is now playing in the Orange Cup in Sydney, Australia.
Marabe has been the ‘go-to-man’ for the Vipers since signing up this season from the Hela Wigmen but his mid-season move down south may prove costly for the team come mid-August.
It is no secret that the Vipers early season form promised the possible return of the intercity rugby league championship tag to the nation’s capital but that hope has faded with the huge losses to 2012 premiership contenders Enga Mioks in week 13 and the Muruks last Sunday.
Shane Morris is faced with the huge task of finding a replacement for Marabe four weeks out from the finals.
But the versatility and brunt that the Hela man provided is a huge gap to fill.
The Vipers’ seven wins from 12 games played so far have come mostly at home, and against bottom-placed teams TNA Simbu Lions and the Tigers away.
Two win have come from the local Port Moresby derby against the Prima Smallgoods Gulf Isapeas.