By PARKER TAMBUA
FORWARD and man-of-the-match Samuel Yegip scored a late try to help the Hela Wigmen sink the Lae Tigers 16-14 in the Digicel Cup grand final in Port Moresby yesterday.
Four minutes from fulltime at Sir John Guise Stadium, reigning champions Tigers appeared to have wrapped up their fourth title with a 14-10 lead.
But a brilliant individual effort from Digicel Cup prop-of-the-year Yegip saw the Wigmen avenge their defeat in last year’s grand final of the country’s premier rugby league competition.
The converted try assured the Wigmen of their second title in six years.
Papua New Guinea Kumul and Tigers star Edwin Ipape said the Wigmen had caught them off guard.
“We thought we had them but they did put a lot of pressure in the dying stages and they deserved the win,” he said.
“I did not expect them to play the way they did.”
Wigmen coach Charlie Wabo said his young backline had proved the difference.
“I commend my players for hanging in there to claim the win,” he said.
“It was thoroughly deserved.
“I am proud of our young players like Judah Rimbu, Solomon Pokari and Tony Wemin.
“I re-shuffled them during the game and I think it paid off well.”
The Tigers were the first to score through fullback Joe Joshua off a Charlie Simon grubber kick.
Simon’s conversion attempt was unsuccessful as they led 4-0.
But the Wigmen took the lead three minutes later when Pokari set up PNG nines international Stanford Talita who spun in heavy traffic before crossing over for a converted try beside the posts.
The Wigmen extended their lead to 10-4 in the 47th minute when halves pairing Pokari and Wemin combined to send Digicel Cup winger of the year Solo Wane over for an unconverted try.
But the Tigers equalised in the next set when Ipape threw a cut-out pass to Jokedi Bire who crossed over on the left edge.
With 15 minutes remaining, Simon ran a play on the left edge to see Bire complete his double.
Simon failed to convert as they led 14-10 until Yegip scored the winning try.