The SP PNG Hunters have kicked off the 2022 season with a tough 16-10 win over the Mackay Cutters at BB Print Stadium, Mackay.
The Hunters enjoyed an excellent start, getting through their opening set before strong contact in defence forced the Cutters into an error with their first possession. Starting props Casey Dickson and Sylvester Namo consistently bent the line with their carries to open the game and Mackay had no answer. Left-edge backrower Benji Kot came awfully close to crashing over the line after collecting a late offload before the Hunters forced yet another error in Mackay’s half. From the attacking scrum, right-centre Rodrick Tai summed things up smartly to put Solo Wane over in the corner for the opening try.
Dilbert Isaac was next to score for the Hunters, crashing over under the posts courtesy of a lovely pass from Wesser Tenza at dummy-half. The Hunters were dominating the ruck and some nice pass selection by Tenza found Isaac pouring into a hole close to the line where he couldn’t be stopped.
The Cutters would be next to score, finding some space for themselves around the ruck and racing 70 metres up field only for Solo Wane to complete a superb chasing cover tackle. Wane’s effort forced the Cutters to search wide for points and they missed the ensuing conversion, keeping the Hunters lead at 8 going into the break.
The Cutters didn’t die wondering in the second half. They mounted a stack of pressure late in the game to have five consecutive sets attacking the Hunters line, finally scoring off a cross-field bomb in the 66th minute.
But that’s as close as Mackay would get. The Hunters held on bravely in the final stages with Judah Rimbu kicking the lead out to six with just minutes remaining. The win will fill the Hunters with confidence heading into next Saturday match with the CQ Capras.
SP PNG Hunters’ Head Coach Matt Church said he was encouraged by the Round 1 performance.
“What we’ve got here is an exciting young group who are all hungry to get better,” Church said.
“We learned the hard way in the preseason trials and the boys gave themselves a chance to win the game tonight with their completions and discipline, which were much improved.”
Church gave credit to a strong preseason for how the Hunters were able to repeatedly defend their line in the second half.
“It’s encouraging to see that our tough preseason paved the way for a full 80 minute performance in Round 1. To defend five sets on our line and only concede points through a kick was really pleasing,” said Church.
“It’s great to get the win for all our debutants tonight and for Keven (Appo) in his captaincy debut.”
SP PNG Hunters 16 def. Mackay Cutters 10
Hunters’ tries: Solo Wane 7′, Dilbert Issac 19′