The SP PNG Hunters are back on home soil this weekend when they host the Northern Pride at the Santos National Football Stadium this Saturday, 27th May in Round 11 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is at 3pm.
Despite finishing on the wrong side of the scoreboard last week, the Hunters will take plenty of confidence from how they were able to fight their way back into the contest against Wynnum Manly.
Staring down a 22-point deficit at one stage, the Hunters roared to life in the second half to score five unanswered tries and finish just four points shy of the Seagulls. They completely dominated in all key areas in the second half, running through the Wynnum Manly defence with ease and scoring points across the park.
Experienced campaigner Junior Rop was a standout for the Hunters last week, coming up with a number of big defensive plays to swing the momentum in his team’s favour. From there, Rop put the Hunters on his back in yardage to generate some ruck speed for his halves to play on the back of.
Jamie Mavoko and Sakias Komati capitalised on those opportunities smartly, setting up two tries for Rodrick Tai as the Hunters mounted an incredible comeback.
The key to the Hunters second half resurgence against Wynnum Manly was their improved discipline.
PNG tightened up in defence and forced the referee to put the whistle away as they dragged the Seagulls into a grind after the break. The home side couldn’t stay with the Hunters once they tidied up their discipline, and it’s a blueprint the Hunters can follow again this Saturday against the Northern Pride.
The Pride come into Round 11 on the back of a 28-12 loss to Souths-Logan Magpies.
That loss marked the end of a challenging four-week period for the Pride, who managed narrow wins over the Cutters and Clydesdales on either side of disappointing losses to Souths-Logan and Norths Devils.
Currently sitting just above the Hunters in 9th position on the QRL Hostplus Cup ladder, the Pride need a win to stay in touch of the top eight. It makes for a mouth-watering clash on Saturday afternoon, with both the Hunters and Pride fighting to hold their position in the middle of the table.
The last time these sides met was in Round 5 this year, when the Hunters travelled to Barlow Park, Cairns but couldn’t best the home side in a 34-14 defeat.
No doubt the Hunters will be eager to avenge that loss when they host the Pride at the Santos National Football Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Player to Watch
Hunters utility Sanny Wabo played a starring role in PNG’s incredible comeback last week against Wynnum Manly.
Entering the contest just after halftime with the scoreboard reading 28-6, Wabo provided the Hunters with wonderful energy and intent through the middle of the field. Despite his small stature, Wabo often led the line speed in defence and was enthusiastic in yardage as either a ball runner or distributor around the ruck.
Wabo’s footwork and pass option helped the Hunters move the ball smoothly across the park and strip the tiring Seagulls defence for numbers on the edges. Taking to his bench impact role smartly, Wabo’s energy was the difference in a grinding second half.
He was rewarded for his efforts with two tries in less than 30 minutes on the field, and can be a real point of difference for the Hunters again this weekend.
SP PNG Hunters Head Coach Stanley Tepend said the club is keen to make the most of a four-game stretch on home soil after finishing strongly in the second half last week.
“We’ve had a tough last few weeks but it’s exciting to be back home at NFS in front of our fans,” said Tepend.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to perform well, starting with the Pride this weekend. We took a lot of confidence out of how we finished last week’s game against Wynnum Manly, and it’s important we roll that into the Pride game on Saturday.”
“We’ve had some Digicel Cup players join us at training this week which has been beneficial for both parties. It’s good to have competition within the squad and the boys are all working hard to earn their position in the team.”
Tepend said the focus this week has been internal, but admitted the Round 5 loss to the Pride earlier this season will be in the back of their minds.
“We’ve been focussing on ourselves and what we need to improve this week, but I’m sure the boys will be eager to get one back against the Pride this weekend,” said Tepend.
“We’ve improved a lot since then and we get a chance to show that improvement on Saturday.”
1. Morea Morea
2. Brandon Nima
3. Julius Igila
4. Rodrick Tai
5. Solo Wane
6. Sakias Komati
7. Jamie Mavoko
8. Junior Rop
9. Wesser Tenza
10. Tommy Moide
11. Epel Kapinias
12. Julius Yakopa
13. Ila Alu (captain)
14. Judah Rimbu
15. Sanny Wabo
16. Koso Bandi
17. Seal Kalo
18. Benji Kot
19. Henry Wan Noki
20. Casey Dickson
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