The SP PNG Hunters will travel to Townsville this weekend to take on the Blackhawks at Jack Manski Oval in Round 9 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is Friday, 12th May at 6:30pm.
The Hunters will ride a wave of confidence into Friday’s matchup having secured back-to-back wins in their last two games. Making the most of their home ground advantage, the Hunters put on a show for the locals at the Santos National Football Stadium in the last fortnight to register wins over the Mackay Cutters and Ipswich Jets.
The Hunters recent form has them sitting just outside the Top Eight coming into Round 9, and they have a wonderful chance to strengthen their position on the QRL Hostplus Cup ladder with a win over the 13th placed Blackhawks on Friday.
The Hunters winning performances in the last two weeks have come on the back of their efforts in yardage. Led by skipper Ila Alu, the Hunters are dominating the ruck area and laying a platform for their attacking players to influence the contest.
The improving contributions of PNG’s bench players have been particularly pleasing for Head Coach Stanley Tepend in recent weeks. Against the Jets in Round 8, bench forwards Tommy Moide (107m) and Seal Kalo (123m) ensured the Hunters lost none of their momentum when rotating their starting forwards.
With Wesser Tenza consistently taking the right options from behind the ruck, the Hunters are rolling downfield with ease and creating plenty of attacking opportunities for themselves in good-ball. Morea Morea’s scintillating start to the season has shown no signs of slowing down, with the fullback chiming in for another try and two assists against the Jets last week.
Thanks to the work of his forwards and fellow spine players, Morea is consistently finding himself in positive positions on the park. He will be a key player again for the Hunters on Friday night.
The Townsville Blackhawks are 2-and-5 after seven games played this season, with a bye helping them to six competition points and 13th place on the QRL ladder. Three of those losses were by a margin of eight points or less, suggesting that the Blackhawks aren’t far away from putting it all together.
They come into Round 9 however on the back of two heavy defeats – a 30-4 loss to Souths-Logan in Round 7 was backed up by a 36-18 defeat at the hands of Brisbane Tigers. Having conceded 30+ points in their last two games, we can expect defence to be a priority for the Blackhawks when they host the Hunters on Friday night.
This fixture will pitch former PNG Hunter Sylvester Namo up against his old club for the first time since joining the Blackhawks in 2023. A powerful front rower with a great engine, Namo profiles as a key player for the home side in Round 9 and how the Hunters nullify his involvements will be crucial to the result.
Player to Watch
PNG Hunters try scoring machine Solo Wane has observed a quiet start to the 2023 QRL Hostplus Cup season, by his standards.
The speedster has just one try from seven appearances so far this year but was back to his best last week against the Ipswich Jets. Best known for his electrifying pace and finishing ability, Wane rolled his sleeves up and embraced the grind in Round 9 to rack up 163 running metres from 13 carries.
With one line break and three tackle busts from those 13 hit-ups, Wane helped the Hunters exit the back of the field cleanly and get their sets off to a positive start.
As PNG’s combinations in the backline continue to gel, Wane should find himself in a position to score a few more tries as the season progresses. Against a Blackhawks outfit that has conceded an average 25.3 points per game to begin the year, this could be the week that Wane troubles the scoreboard again.
SP PNG Hunters Head Coach Stanley Tepend was pleased with the results over the last fortnight but insists there is still plenty of work to be done.
“I think our start to games has been really good the last two weeks,” said Tepend.
“Against Ipswich we completed the opening quarter without an error. Our discipline was much improved and that laid the foundation for the rest of the game.”
“It was disappointing to concede a few late points and we’ve worked hard this week on staying focussed, keeping our communication strong and working to play out the full 80 minutes.”
Tepend is expecting a strong showing from the Blackhawks at home on Friday night and stressed the need for PNG to stick to what has worked for them over the last two weeks.
“We’ve had a short turnaround this week so we’ve focussed on getting the boys refreshed and ready for Friday night,” Tepend said.
“We’ve mainly concentrated on our own game, but we know the Blackhawks will provide a good test for us.”
“The boys are looking forward to going up against some of their fellow countrymen. It’s a great challenge for our boys to play against International talent and test themselves.”
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. Henry Wan Noki
11. Epel Kapinias
12. Julius Yakopa
13. Ila Alu (captain)
14. Judah Rimbu
15. Tom Moide
16. Koso Bandi
17. Joshua Mire
18. Matthew Jesse
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