The SP PNG Hunters are back on home soil this Saturday 6th May when they host the Ipswich Jets at the Santos National Football Stadium in Round 8 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is at 3pm.
The Hunters outplayed the Mackay Cutters last weekend to collect two competition points on the back of a resounding 18-10 win. The Hunters defended a desperate Cutters outfit as they mounted a comeback midway through both halves but for all their desperation, Mackay never really got close.
The Hunters dominated the ruck area once the game settled into a grind, thanks largely to the work of their back five in exit sets.
Fullback Morea Morea, centres Benji Kot and Rodrick Tai and wingers Brandon Nima and Solo Wane all topped 100+ running metres in Round 7 as they marched the Hunters into attacking territory. From there, the spine combined smartly through Wesser Tenza, rookie five-eighth Joshua Mire and halfback Jamie Mavoko. They found points on both edges by engaging the line and passing strike attacking players like Kot and Tai into space out wide.
The 8-point winning margin doesn’t truly represent the Hunters dominance in last week’s game. They made four line-breaks to one, missed less tackles and comfortably bested the Cutters in yardage on their way to their second win of the season.
The challenge now is to back it up this weekend against an Ipswich Jets outfit that have endured a tough start to their 2023 Hostplus Cup campaign.
Yet to post a win from seven matches so far this year, the Jets will travel to Port Moresby on Sunday full of desperation. They’ve had challenging matchups against five of the current Top Eight sides but have shown signs of improvement over the last few weeks.
A 46-10 loss to the Western Clydesdales last weekend will have left the Jets hungry to collect two competition points on Saturday, and they get their best chance yet to do so when they take on the Hunters at the Santos NFS.
The Jets boast some strike out wide but some of their best performances so far this year have come through the middle. Prop-forward Gordon Whippy has an impressive three tries from five appearances this season, while backrowers Jerome Veve and Joel Holdsworth have both troubled the scoreboard this season.
It makes for a mouth-watering matchup on Saturday, given both teams employ a power game through the middle. Whoever can win the ruck area and get their team playing on the front foot with momentum should be confident of coming out on top in this one.
Players to Watch
SP PNG Hunters halfback Jamie Mavoko had arguably his best game in the QRL Hostplus Cup last week and can play a starring role again this weekend. Known predominantly for his game management and ballplaying, Mavoko tucked the ball under his arm and challenged the line a few times last week to good effect. His willingness to engage the defence eventually created space for Julius Yakopa to pour through for a well-worked try, and how Mavoko can manipulate defenders and create space for his teammates is something to watch out for this weekend.
Mavoko’s chances to run last week often came on the back of a powerful carry from Hunters skipper Ila Alu who also played out a career game. With 19 carries for 185 running metres, Alu was the most effective yardage merchant for the Hunters last week, as he has been for most of the 2023 season. He has a great engine and is a fierce competitor through the middle of the field, and will need to lead from the front again this weekend.
While his running numbers impressed in Round 7, what the stats don’t show is how important Alu is to the Hunters good-ball attack. He is an effective link man between the ruck and the edges and is enjoying a particularly promising combination with Wesser Tenza in the middle-third of the field. Alu was hampered by injuries last season but is quickly getting back to his best in season 2023.
1. Morea Morea
2. Siki Konden
3. Brandon Nima
4. Rodrick Tai
5. Solo Wane
6. Sakias Komati
7. Jamie Mavoko
8. Junior Rop
9. Wesser Tenza
10. Koso Bandi
11. Epel Kapinias
12. Julius Yakoba
13. Ila Alu (captain)
14. Judah Rimbu
15. Tom Moide
16. Henry Wan Noki
18. Sanny Wabo
19. Trevor Solu
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