By JACK AMI
THE PORT Moresby Vipershanded the defending premiersLae Tigers their second loss ofthe season with a spirited 18-14win in their Digicel Cup round 3fixture at the National Football
The National Capital Di st ri ct C ommission-sponsored franchisebanked their first win ofthe season after losses to theGiru Waghi Tumbe (26-12) andPRK Mendi Muruks (24-20) overthe opening two rounds.
For the Tigers, it was theirs econdloss of the season after beingshocked 13-12 by newcomers theGulf Isou in round 1.
Stand-in halfback Benton Leme featured prominently for the hosts in the first match of a triple-header in Port Moresby — the SP PNG Hunters were beaten 20-12 by the Souths Logan Magpies in their Q-Cup round 7 match which followed while the Kroton Hela Wigmen saw off the Chimbu Warriors 26-6 in the third match of the day.
Leme, who had returned to the nation’s capital from Perth, Australia, over the pre-season after a stint playing rugby league in a local city competition last year, kicked two conversions and a penalty to help his side upset the Lae Biscuit-sponsored side.
The Vipers try-scorers were Rex Tandoa, Manu Kame and PNG Hunters squad member Brendon Gotuno.
The Vipers looked a better outfit with the inclusion of Gotuno, former Hunter Thompson Teteh and former Gurias hooker Jimmy Peter and Ade Kewa.
Where the Vipers had been poor in their previous two matches they turned a new leaf with a committed effort especially on defence.
Vipers wing Tandoa drew first blood after being set up by the experienced Teteh to cross in the corner in the 14th minute for a 4-0 lead
The Lae side hit back through Casey Dickson with halfback Jason Missian adding the extras to nudge the visitors ahead 6-4.
Vipers forward Manu Kame barged through the Tigers line from close range for his side’s second four-pointer with Leme nailing the easy conversion to reclaim the lead 10-6 in the 30th minute.
Fullback Gotuno widened the gap in the 38th minute for the home side with a weaving effort that saw him plant it beside the posts.
Leme knocked over the conversion to give the Vipers a handy 16-6 lead before a Missian kicked penalty goal to narrow the gap to 16-8 at halftime.
The Tigers gave themselves a chance with Charles Martin crashing over in the second half with Missian slotting the conversion to be two points in arrears at 16-14.
Leme then kicked a penalty goal in an otherwise event-less half which saw the Vipers battle hard to protect their lead.
Vipers coach Joe Sipa was happy with his side’s defensive effort in the second half saying that more than anything else had won them the game. “We defended strongly in that second half and made fewer mistakes in the game and I think that’s what made us win,” Sipa said.
Tigers coach Tepend lamented the high error count by his side saying it was always an uphill battle for his men when they could not complete their sets and mount any pressure on the opposition.
Rd 3 Results: Sun, April 22 – Agmark Gurias 28 PRK Gulf Isou 4, NCDC Port Moresby Vipers 18 Snax Lae Tigers 14, Kroton Hela Wigmen 26 Chimbu Warriors 6, EPG Enga Mioks 10 Giru Waghi Tumbe 4, Bintangor Goroka Lahanis 26 PRK Mendi Muruks 10.
By JACK AMI