The SP PNG Hunters are back in Australia this weekend when they take on the Burleigh Bears at UAA Park, Gold Coast in Round 6 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kick off is at 3pm on Saturday, 22nd of April.
It’s been a short week for the Hunters who returned to Port Moresby following their disappointing loss to the Northern Pride last weekend. The travel to and from Papua New Guinea means the Hunters observed a restricted training schedule this week, but no doubt they will be eager to take the field on Saturday and respond to their Round 5 loss.
Despite the result, there were plenty of positives for the Hunters to take away from last week’s match against the Pride. The PNG-based side showed that when they hold the ball and control their discipline, they can pile on the points quickly.
They also produced some compelling defensive efforts on their own try line to repel an expansive Pride attack. It often took multiple repeat sets for the Pride to crack PNG’s line, and if the Hunters can limit their opponents attacking chances, they will be confident in defending their line.
SP PNG Hunters Head Coach Stanley Tepend has made a few minor changes to his side for Round 6. Benji Kot moves back into the centres where he enjoyed a steller start to the season, while Julius Yakoba returns to the backrow after missing last week. In the spine, Jamie Mavoko has been recalled at halfback and gets a chance to resume what was a promising combination with Sakias Komati and Morea Morea over the opening four games.
How the Hunters forward pack performs on Saturday will go a long way to bringing Mavoko, Komati and Morea into the game. The Hunters forwards were beaten through the middle by Pride in Round 5 but they get a chance to respond against the Bears on Saturday afternoon.
The Burleigh Bears will also be stinging after a heavy loss in Round 5 at the hands of the Sunshine Coast Falcons.
The Falcon’s Melbourne Storm affiliated players ran riot against the Bears in Round 5, who struggled to contain the NRL-quality attacking talent across the park.
Don’t let that score line fool you, though. Burleigh have once again assembled a quality roster this season and will provide a stern test for PNG when playing at home this weekend.
Player to Watch
PNG Hunters skipper Ila Alu stood tallest last week in a beaten side, playing out an inspired 53 minutes through the middle to be one of the Hunters best.
Alu took 13 carries for 110 metres (35 in post-contact) last week to be the only forward to notch 100+ running metres against the Pride. His ability to hit a hole in the line and time his runs smartly with hooker Wesser Tenza makes Alu a difficult task for defending middles. He is strong through contact and has great late footwork that allows Alu to either break through the tackle (four tackle busts last week) or find his front to win a quick play-the-ball for his team. An Alu carry is often the trigger for Tenza to scoot from dummy-half on the following tackle.
Alu’s point of difference though is the ballplaying option he provides PNG around the ruck. He is a key member of the spine when the Hunters shift the ball through the backline, allowing Komati and Morea to play wider against a sliding or retreating defensive line. As he develops combinations with the players around him, Alu’s value will only increase.
1. Morea Morea
2. Brandon Nima
3. Benji Kot
4. Rodrick Tai
5. Solo Wane
6. Sakias Komati
7. Jamie Mavoko
8. Junior Rop
9. Wesser Tenza
10. Epel Kapinias
11. Sherwin Tanabi
12. Julius Yakoba
13. Ila Alu (captain)
14. Trevor Solu
15. Tom Moide
16. Koso Bandi
17. Henry Noki
18. Sanny Wabo
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