The SP PNG Hunters are back on the road this week for the first time since Round 10, travelling to face the Sunshine Coast Falcons on Sunday, 25th June in Round 15 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is at 2:30pm.
Despite coming off a recent loss to premiership leaders Souths Logan, the Hunters will bring plenty of confidence into this weekend’s fixture following a promising block of games over the last month.
A stretch of four straight home games at the Santos National Football Stadium gave the Hunters a great opportunity to build into the season, and they took it with both hands. Two big wins over the Tweed Seagulls and Western Clydesdales backed up a narrow loss to finals bound club the Northern Pride and was then followed by a tough result against the Magpies.
While last week’s contest was disappointing, the Hunters have shown considerable improvements to their discipline and defence over the last month, and have done so without a host of key players available. With a number of more experienced campaigners missing due to injury and suspension, the Hunters were forced to lean upon their next-gen talent and those younger players have rose to the occasion.
Judah Rimbu, Joshua Lau, Tommy Moide and Joshua Mire have all performed beyond their years in recent weeks in a positive sign for the club’s development.
The Hunters consistently compete against players with more experience and against clubs with existing combinations within the roster. As this current playing group spends more time on the field together though, we can only expect them to further improve.
While disappointing against the Magpies last week, the Hunters have a great opportunity to respond against the Falcons this weekend, who currently sit just two rungs higher on the QRL ladder in ninth place.
With Ila Alu and Sherwin Tanabi making a successful return from injury last week and with Sakias Komati back from suspension, this is a winnable game for the Hunters as they work into the back end of the regular season.
The Sunshine Coast Falcons come into Round 15 on the back of a narrow win over fellow heavyweights Brisbane Tigers.
The Falcons rolled out Justin Olam in the centres for that contest but the gun PNG international is back in the NRL for the Melbourne Storm this weekend.
The task is made little easier for the Hunters though, with the Falcons backline still featuring Sualauvi Faalogo, Young Tonumaipea and Grant Anderson who all boast experience either playing or training in an NRL system.
Despite the wealth of attacking talent at their disposal, it is the Falcons defence that has them in good stead with finals approaching. They currently play with the third best defence in the competition and will provide a stern test for the Hunters improving attack on Sunday.
On their day, this Hunters side can put points on anyone but it’s in defence that this contest is likely to be won. PNG have shown glimpses of a much improved defensive system this season and they’ll need to be at their best again on Sunday against the Falcons.
Player to Watch
SP PNG Hunters crowd-favourite Benji Kot has shifted between centre and backrow this season depending on what the team needs.
He offers great utility value as a strike attacking centre who can also spot up in the backrow. He’s a big body and a powerful ball carrier in yardage who can bust a tackle or get an offload away when the opportunity presents.
He scored a special individual try last week from the backrow, chasing a pinpoint Joshua Mire kick to collect the loose ball and dive over in the corner despite some considerable defensive attention.
He also made a number of big defensive plays last week, in a sign of Kot’s development as a genuine QRL-quality player.
Kot was the man on the spot to defend a linebreak made by the Magpies last week, rushing back in defence to make a certain try saving tackle that he had no right to make. Kot then backed it up a few minutes later with a huge shot on Souths-Logan hooker Blake Mozer, who scooted from dummy-half in good-ball only to be jammed by Kot and lose the ball over the line.
Kot’s attacking output has never been questioned but it’s in defence where he has shown considerable improvement this year. With just 34 QRL games to his name, Kot is still a relative rookie when compared to most players across the competition, but he is growing in experience and confidence with every game.
Named to play in the backrow again this weekend with Sherwin Tanabi unavailable, Kot and his five-eighth Sakias Komati will give the Hunters left edge plenty of strike in attack.
It’s in defence though where the Hunters need to be strongest against the Magpies, and if last week’s performance is anything to go by then Kot is well positioned to make a difference on Sunday.
1. Morea Morea
2. Brandon Nima
3. Junior Igila
4. Rodrick Tai
5. Solo Wane
6. Sakias Komati
7. Jamie Mavoko
8. Junior Rop
9. Judah Rimbu
10. Epel Kapinias
11. Benji Kot
12. Julius Yakopa
13. Ila Alu
14. Trevor Solu
15. Tommy Moide
16. Seal Kalo
17. Henry Wan Noki
18. Siki Konden
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