SP PNG Hunters coach Matt Church has had the luxury of making only one change to his team for Saturday’s Intrust Super Cup clash with Townsville Blackhawks at Bycroft Oval.
Church hasn’t enjoyed that stability since the Hunters made an impressive start to the season with three wins from their first four games.
Prop Epel Kapinias is the sole change from the team that lost to Redcliffe Dolphins last Saturday night, picking up an ankle syndesmosis injury that will sideline him for at least two months.
The Hunters, however, are fortunate to be able to call up the experienced PNG international and former Penrith Panthers signing Stanton Albert from the bench to start in the No.8 jersey.
Edwin Ipape retains the No.6 jersey in a backline unchanged from the team that ran in three unanswered tries last Saturday night during a fightback against the Dolphins.
“It’s great to have a bit of stability around team selections for the first time for a while,” Church said.
“And it comes after we competed for the full 80 minutes against the Dolphins, something we hadn’t done in the previous two games. So hopefully we can keep that going.
“We didn’t control the ball well enough first half last week but, once we did, we put a fair amount of pressure on Redcliffe.
“That slow start was down to poor options and individual mistakes more than anything but once we started to mount some consistent pressure into the second half we came up with a few tries and held them scoreless.
“We need to take that into the Blackhawks game.”
The Hunters are still without fullback Terry Wapi (knee) who was in fine early-season form, winger Brendon Gotuno (fractured forearm) and centre Brandon Nima (pectoral tear).
Kapinias will be missed after playing seven of this season’s eight games, averaging 68 minutes a match.
The Hunters and Blackhawks are each on six competition points with the PNG side keen to go in front with a home victory at their Runaway Bay Seagulls base to put them back within the top eight.
The Blackhawks sit outside the top eight after losing five of their last six matches. However, the Intrust Super Cup heavyweights have lost each match by eight points or fewer in a sign of their competitiveness.
The Blackhawks also named their team tonight, including PNG internationals Kyle Laybutt and Moses Meninga along with the likes of former NRL players Josh Hoffman and Cameron King.
SP PNG Hunters to play Townsville Blackhawks at Bycroft Oval, Runaway Bay on Saturday, June 5 at 2.10pm:
1. Norman Brown. 2. Junior Rau. 3. Emmanuel Waine. 4. Jokadi Bire. 5.Solo Wane. 6. Edwin Ipape 7. Solomon Pokare. 8. Stanton Albert. 9. Wartovo Puara Jnr. 10. Samuel Yegip 11. Benji Kot 12. Keven Appo. 13. Ila Alu (c). Interchange: 14. Judah Rimbu. 15. Sylvester Namo 16. Enock Maki 17. Mark Piti. Coach: Matt Church.
Townsville Blackhawks: 1. Jaelen Feeney. 2. Michael Carroll. 3. Carlin Anderson. 4. Josh Hoffman. 5. Luke Geary. 6. Kyle Laybutt. 7. Shaun Nona. 8. Joe Boyce. 9. Cameron King. 10. Sam Hoare. 11. Nathan Barrett. 12. Patrick Kaufusi. 13. Griffin Neame. Interchange: 15. Sam Murphy. 16. Moses Meninga. 17. Jordan Kenworthy. 22. Sione Lousi. Coach: Aaron Payne.
Match officials: Wyatt Raymond. Sam Swift. Jordan Morel.