The SP PNG Hunters will take a much-needed shot of confidence from last weekend’s Intrust Super Cup Country Week victory over Northern Pride into Saturday’s home clash with Mackay Cutters, despite the loss of skipper Ila Alu with injury.
The Hunters scored some spectacular long-range tries in their 34-22 win in Atherton and coach Matt Church says the way his side was more selective in creating backline opportunities provided a lesson to replicate as the Hunters chase successive victories.
The backs scored six tries against the Pride, three to winger Solo Wane, while all of the back five – fullback Terry Wapi (183m), wingers Wane (225m) and Junior Rau (226m) and centres Brandon Nima (116m) and Brendon Gutono (115m) – ran for over 100 metres each.
“It was a great example of when to run the ball and back their skill and pace because we certainly have to ability to score points,” Church said. “The challenge now is to do that consistently.
“Stanton Albert (157 running metres) and Enock Maki (114m) set the platform for the forwards and our bench provided probably their best impact on the game this season. They really came in and lifted the intensity.
“Now comes the chance to put that in the bank and do it again after a weekend away and victory has given us a spring in our step.”
Lock Alu suffered a head knock and will have a week’s rest under HIA protocols. Five-eighth Ase Boas will captain the Hunters in his absence. Dilbert Isaac, the 28-year-old prop in his third Intrust Super Cup season, comes into the starting line-up for his skipper.
Jordan Pat, who was a late addition to the squad at their Runaway Bay camp a month ago, makes his first appearance for the season after playing well in the Gold Coast A-grade competition. Middle forward Pat played four games for the Hunters in 2019.
Second-rower Keven Appo will be given another week to overcome his ankle injury while second-rower Sylvester Namo has recovered from a sprained wrist and will start from the interchange bench in place of Samuel Yegip (ankle injury).
In Round 3, the Hunters beat the Cutters 26-14 in Mackay. The Cutters have won two games this season.
Mackay will be without North Queensland Cowboys’ emerging NRL players Daejarn Asi, Michael Bell and Ben Condon who have to remain in the NRL bubble while Tongan halfback Ata Hingano signed with English Super League club Salford last month.
This match was scheduled to be played three weeks ago but a Covid lockdown in parts of Queensland prevented the match from going ahead. The Queensland Rugby League moved the round to this weekend, which had been scheduled for a bye. There are six rounds remaining before the Intrust Super Cup finals.
The SP PNG Hunters to play Mackay Cutters at Bycroft Oval, Runaway Bay on Saturday July 24 at 3pm:
SP PNG HUNTERS: 1. Terri Wapi. 2. Junior Rau. 3. Brandon Nima. 4. Brandon Gutono. 5. Solo Wane. 6. Ase Boas (capt). 7. Charlie Simon. 8. Stanton Albert. 9. Wartovo Puara Jnr. 10. Enock Maki. 11. Emmanuel Waine. 12. Benji Kot. 13. Dilbert Isaac. Interchange: 14. Judah Rimbu. 15. Sylvester Namo. 16. Mark Piti 17. Jordan Pat. Coach: Matt Church.
MACKAY CUTTERS: 1. Matiu Stone-Dunn. 2. Jake Riley. 3. Buchanan Rawhiti. 4. Josh Smith. 5. Keanu Wainohu-Kemp. 6. Brandon Finnegan. 7. Adam Cook. 8. Jack Quinn. 9. Bayley Gill. 10. Ross Bella. 11. Kai O’Donnell. 12. Blake Atherton. 13. Jesse Dee. Interchange: 14. Beaudan Dixon. 16. Luke Webley. 17. Morgan McWhirter. 18. Jaymon
Moore. Coach: Michael Crawley.
Match officials: Tyson Brough, Jack Ebert, Matt Colclough.