The SP PNG Hunters are back at the Santos National Football Stadium this Saturday, 29th April when they host the Mackay Cutters in Round 7 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is at 3pm.
The Hunters will have plenty to play for when they run out to a home crowd this weekend, having fallen short to the Burleigh Bears in Round 6 last week. The Bears ran out to a big early lead having played with 90% of possession in the opening stages of the match. Starved of possession and field position, the Hunters had no chance to answer back as Burleigh dominated proceedings.
The Hunters had just three sets in the first quarter of the game, highlighting the lopsided nature of the contest. As the possession stat balanced out, the PNG side showed they can match it with anyone in the Hostplus Cup competition. They made the most of their rare opportunities in attack to score four well-worked tries against a highly experienced and confident Burleigh outfit.
The Hunters will be without suspended five-eighth Sakias Komati this week but will be confident of returning to the winners circle against the 14th placed Cutters. The last time these sides met was in Round 20 last year, when the Hunters produced one of the performances of the season. Down on the scoreboard with just minutes remaining, a length of the field try in the 77th minute clinched the result for the Hunters to ensure they finished the 2022 season on a high.
Current Hunters players Rodrick Tai, Judah Rimbu, Ila Alu and Brandon Nima were instrumental to that result and shape as key players for PNG again, this week.
The Cutters will travel to Port Moresby for Saturday’s match on the back of a 42-16 thumping at the hands of Norths Devils. Two sinbins to Cutters players Kyle Schneider and Sean Mullany made the task all too difficult for Mackay in that game as Norths ran in seven tries against a depleted defensive line.
Mackay have made a host of changes to their Round 6 losing side and will be desperate to get their season back on track with a win this weekend.
Player to Watch
Epel Kapinias might’ve finished on the wrong side of the scoreboard last week but he played out a career game himself to be one of the Hunters best in Round 6.
Starting in the middle at prop, Kapinias played 75 minutes straight for Head Coach Stanley Tepend and refused to take a backwards step in the face of a red-hot Burleigh Bears side. With an engine that belies his hulking frame, Kapinias was a force on both sides of the ball as the Hunters chased a miracle comeback.
His strength through contact in yardage is evident with Kapinias registering half his total running metres from that game in post-contact. He busted five tackles and broke the line once on his way to his first try of the season and his fifth in his Hostplus Cup career. Kapinias also made 24 tackles with just one miss to show his worth in defence, too.
At just 24 years of age and approaching 50 games in the Queensland Cup, Kapinias’ best football is still ahead of him. The experience he is getting as a leader in the Hunters forward pack will hold him in good stead as he finds his feet in the Hostplus Cup competition.
Head Coach Stanley Tepend was understandably disappointed with last week’s performance and is looking forward to a response on Saturday.
“It’s obviously been a disappointing last few weeks,” said Tepend.
“Full credit to Burleigh who played a great game, but we just lacked energy and intent right from the kick off. We just weren’t there last week but the boys are learning quickly that in this competition you have to be ready to turn up every week.”
Tepend said his side has focussed on being accountable for individual performances this week.
“We’ve had a look at our individual preparation – what we do throughout the week, on gameday, how we’re preparing ourselves for the game. We need to be accountable for our own actions and make sure we’re all on the same page.”
“We’ve focussed on staying in our systems and being more resilient when things don’t go our way. We know we’ve got points in us but we just need to not panic and trust our defensive systems.”
1. Morea Morea
2. Siki Konden
3. Brandon Nima
4. Rodrick Tai
5. Solo Wane
6. Joshua MIre
7. Jamie Mavoko
8. Junior Rop
9. Wesser Tenza
10. Epel Kapinias
11. Sherwin Tanabi
12. Julius Yakoba
13. Ila Alu (captain)
14. Judah Rimbu
15. Tom Moide
16. Henry Noki
17. Koso Bandi
18. Benji Kot
19. Sanny Wabo
20. Trevor Solu
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