The SP PNG Hunters recent winning streak has ended at the hands of the competition-leading Souths Logan Magpies, falling short 40-10 in Round 14 of the QRL Hostplus Cup.
The local fans were rewarded for flocking to the Santos National Football Stadium on Saturday afternoon, as the Hunters and Magpies entertained right from the kick off.
The Hunters looked confident working through their opening sets until a great tackle from Brisbane Broncos-contracted hooker Blake Mozer forced an error in yardage. With the ensuing field position, Italian international representative Jack Campagnolo orchestrated a slick left edge movement that ended with centre Jesse Jennings steaming through the line to score.
Mozer was at it again for the visitors shortly afterwards, bamboozling the Hunters ruck defence with great deception to pass another Broncos-affiliated player – Benjamin Tu Kura – into another try scoring situation beside the posts.
Full of running and confidence, Souths Logan made a linebreak from the following kick off and looked like going the length. Some desperate cover defence from Benji Kot and Joshua Lau saved the day for the Hunters on this occasion, but the Magpies went quickly back on the attack.
They came close to scoring again when Mozer darted from dummy-half late in the count, only for Kot to again produce a big defensive play for his teammates.
Stopping Mozer in his tracks with a huge shot, Kot denied the Magpies a certain try and won possession back for his team.
Kot was rewarded for his efforts without the ball soon after.
The Hunters made the most of their possession to work upfield and into position for an attacking kick.
A perfectly weighted Joshua Mire bomb was well supported by Brandon Nima and Lau in the kick-chase, forcing the error from the Magpies defence. Kot was the man on the spot to collect the loose ball from there, completing an athletic, diving effort in the corner to score the Hunters first points.
When Casey Dickson was sent to the sinbin in the 31st minute for a tackle gone wrong, Souths Logan struck with two opportunistic tries in the shadows of halftime.
PNG Kumuls representative Cruise Ten gifted Callum Eggerling a slick four-pointer when he got an offload away close to the line, and then five-eighth Radean Robinson latched onto a Campagnolo kick to score beside the posts.
Despite being down 24-4 going into the sheds, the Hunters weren’t far away and again looked likely in the opening exchanges of the half.
They were matching the Magpies in the yardage battle until another sinbin once again gave Souths Logan a numerical advantage on the field, and Jennings made the most of it to score in the 48th minute.
The Hunters wouldn’t go away though.
Absorbing a mountain of pressure in their own half, the Hunters exploded to life the first time they worked into Magpies territory. A great run from Trevor Solu burned the markers and split the ruck defence, and Mire backed it up with another clever run from dummy-half to score.
Mire almost went back-to-back in the kickoff set.
The Hunters rolled downfield and found easy metres on the edges before setting up on the right tram line. A four-pass shift to the left edge ended in the hands of Mire, who broke through the line but lost possession in the cover tackle.
Buoyed by their defence, the Magpies dominated the next 10 minutes. They played most of their footy in PNG territory and the pressure eventually told when fullback Braden Whittaker broke into the backfield on a kick return.
A great individual effort from Morea denied Whittaker briefly, but Souths Logan winger Jack Smith iced the play on the following tackle to give the Magpies a 34-10 lead.
Souths Logan’s NRL-contracted players continued to star in the closing stages.
The craft and speed of Mozer from dummy-half picked apart the Hunters ruck defence around the posts and prop-forward Logan Bayliss was the beneficiary in the 73rd minute, taking the Magpies tally to 40 points.
Despite finishing on the wrong end of a lopsided scoreboard, the Hunters weren’t far off the competition leading Magpies in this one.
They were competitive in yardage and the more aggressive side in defence for most of the contest. They kept themselves in the fight through until the fulltime siren, but just lost too many small moments throughout the match.
Those small moments eventually added up for the Hunters while Souths Logan showed why they sit atop the QRL Hostplus Cup ladder after 14 rounds played.
SP PNG Hunters Head Coach Stanley Tepend was bitterly disappointed with the end result.
“We let ourselves down,” said Tepend.
“The Magpies are a very well drilled side. You can see why they’re at the top of the ladder but we weren’t far away from them in patches today.”
“We competed really well on both sides of the ball but just lost too many little moments throughout the contest.”
Tepend said he was proud of his team’s effort – particularly in defence – but pointed to poor execution and ill-discipline as reasons for the loss.
“Our effort in defence was great but a couple of poor passes and some silly errors or penalties just gave them too many chances.”
“We’ve been much better with our discipline the last few weeks and I thought we’d turned a corner, but those sinbins really hurt us and we lost our concentration and execution in attack.”
On a more positive note, Tepend was pleased to see Ila Alu return from injury and hopes to have a full and healthy squad available for selection next week.
“Ila has worked really hard on his rehab and it was great to have him back out there today.”
“Sherwin (Tanabi) returned from suspension too and we’ll have Wesser (Tenza) and Saki (Komati) and a few other guys in consideration for next week.”
“It’s good to have competition for positions and we should have close to a full strength team available.”
“We’ve got an extra day’s preparation before the Falcons game (next Sunday, 25th June) so we’ll work hard at training and look to bounce back next week.”
Souths Logan Magpies 40 def. SP PNG Hunters 10