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This evolving SP PNG Hunters outfit have extended their winning streak to three consecutive games following a 36-18 demolition of the Ipswich Jets on Saturday afternoon. 

A lively crowd at the Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby bore witness to an attacking clinic as the Hunters and Jets combined for a total 11 tries, but it was the proud Papua New Guinean club who finished strongest to claim their fifth win of the regular season. 

The last placed Jets travelled to PNG with a point to prove in Round 10 of the QRL Hostplus Cup, bursting out of the gates to dominate early field position and earn first shot at the scoreboard. A delicate grubber from five-eighth Dray Ngatuere-Wroe turned that field position into points when Arama Hau won the race to the ball, giving Ipswich an early four-point lead. 

The visitor’s fast start continued when NRL veteran Ken Maumalo next produced a special diving effort in the corner to ice an enterprising movement from the Jets attack. It took multiple offloads and runners in support for Maumalo to find space down the left touchline and the big winger did well to beat the Hunters cover defence from there to score. 

While the Jets attack impressed to cash in twice in the opening exchanges, the Hunters showed great composure under pressure to stick to their systems and slowly grind their way back into the contest. 

As they’ve done all season to date, PNG played to their strengths with the ball to work nice and direct in yardage and put fatigue into the Jets middle defence. Ipswich were able to go with the Hunters at the beginning of both halves but as that fatigue set in, it was the home side who played with all the momentum. 

Sure enough, Judah Rimbu would expose that fatigue to score the Hunters first points beside the posts in the 20th minute. 

Having been forced into so much defensive work through the middle of the field, the Jets ruck defence couldn’t contain Rimbu’s agility as he shaped to genuine decoy runners around him before burrowing over himself. 

The visitor’s made their own luck to next trouble the scoreboard, charging down a yardage kick and then batting back an attacking kick of their own to enjoy back-to-back sets in PNG territory. 

Another grubber then produced another try for Jets backrower Hau, but Ipswich’s ascendency was short-lived. Cracks were beginning to show through their middle as PNG continued to turn the ball back in towards the ruck, forcing defenders into consecutive tackles on their own line. 

The pressure eventually told when Jamie Mavoko won a quick play the ball to leave a defender on the ground and Rimbu identified the opportunity to bag his second. 

Quickly fighting back to a 12-14 scoreline, Hunters fans looking for more proof that Head Coach Paul Aiton has this PNG squad trending in the right direction should look no further than the final minutes of the first half. 

The better teams in the Hostplus Cup are those who stick to their systems and play to a plan in attack regardless of scoreboard pressure, and that’s exactly what PNG did in QRL Round 10. 

Staying patient and embracing the grind after conceding three first-half tries, the Hunters front loaded their defensive efforts to trap an exhausted Ipswich pack inside their own 20m line in the 39th minute. The Jets soon cracked under the pressure when they conceded a yardage penalty in PNG’s kick return set, setting the stage for Elijah Roltinga to score as the half-time siren sounded:

Stringing together no less than seven passes along a fluid backline movement, the Hunters stretched a tiring Jets defence across the park to get Solo Wane into half a space on the right edge. The speedy winger showed a touch of class to beat his opposite man from there and get a miracle offload away for Roltinga, giving PNG a hard earned 16-14 lead at the break. 

The second half started much like the first, as Ipswich enjoyed a stroke of luck to win some early field position for Luke Maddaford to score. 

The Hunters quickly responded in defence to halt the Jets momentum though, and as the clock continued ticking over it was PNG who looked on top. 

Despite an early injury to key playmaker Joshua Lau, the Hunters systems took over to ensure a makeshift spine of Rimbu, Mavoko, Sanny Wabo and Finley Glare patiently employed a plan in attack. It would take another 20 minutes before the lead changed again as the Hunters slowly promoted fatigue into the Jets defence and waited for their cue to strike. 

That cue came in the 60th minute when Rimbu sliced right through an exhausted Jets ruck defence and won a quick play-the-ball for his team. Hunters fullback Wabo was next to run from dummy-half, stealing easy metres before forcing a goal-line dropout with a pinpoint grubber kick. 

With the ensuing field position, halfback Mavoko would target those same tiring middle defenders to score a well-deserved solo try:

Usually playing the role of distributor in attack, Mavoko identified a disconnected Jets ruck defence here to cut back on the inside and crash over himself. 

With Mavoko successfully converting his own try, the Hunters took a 22-18 lead and all the momentum into the final quarter. 

The Jets simply had no answer to PNG’s power game as the Hunters poured through the middle of the field to generate post-contact metres and quick play-the-balls. Under pressure and fatigue, the visitors couldn’t scramble quickly enough to stop Rimbu from collecting his first career hattrick in the 69th minute:

Not done there, Hunters backrower Benji Kot added an exclamation mark to the performance when he crashed over next in the far left corner. Feasting on PNG’s ruck speed and some smart ballplaying from stand-in five-eighth Glare, Kot punished a skinny Jets short side to extend the Hunters lead to 14 points before Glare himself got the last laugh in the shadows of fulltime:

In the exact area where Lau has been tremendous for PNG to start the regular season, here it’s Glare nailing his involvement to create space for Alex Max and Brandon Nima down the touchline. Getting just rewards for his efforts, Glare then backs up on the inside to collect a special offload from Nima to cap off an emphatic Hunters win. 

Once again, PNG’s improvements in this one showed not just on the scoreboard but in how Aiton’s Hunters approached the contest. By embracing the grind and trusting their processes, the Hunters once again set this one up early to win it late against a fatigued Ipswich defence. 

Riding high with the confidence of three straight wins, the SP PNG Hunters will next travel to BB Print Stadium in Mackay to face the Cutters in Round 11 of the QRL Hostplus Cup. Kickoff is at 3:00pm next Saturday, 26th May. 



Papua New Guinea's team participating in the Queensland Hostplus Cup

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