The PNG Hunters arrived at Davies Park for the first round of the season for the second year in a row, and will take the two competition points back with them on the flight to Port Moresby after a 36-18 that slightly flattered the away side.
It seems that even the weather gods love their rugby league, as fans were welcomed to the Magpies home ground with plenty of sunshine (the players might say too much given the heat) and the anticipation of a brand new season. That heat and the early season may have played a part in this game where there was a few errors from either side, although some ferocious hits may have also been a factor. But it was on the back of those errors and penalties that led to a great deal of the tries scored at Davies Park.
The gods were smiling on the home side early, as poor 6th tackle plays and an early penalty from the Hunters allowed the Magpies to open up the scoring after sustained pressure after 5 minutes through centre Scott Doyle. Not long after the kick off the Magpies gifted the Hunters the ball in good territory and the PNG side made them pay in full with a four pointer to Justin Olam just two plays later. With neither conversions kicked the score remained 4-4.
The next period featured some more early season errors, and at this stage the Souths Logan Magpies were the more inventive attacking side, and looked the more dangerous side with the ball. As the Hunters do though, it only took a length of the field movement in the 22nd minute, which although was pulled down 5 metres short, led to a try the very next play on the right wing to Adex Wera. Not long after the theme of one side gifting the other ball and territory and being punished continued as the Hunters gave away a penalty, and the Magpies gladly accepted the gift by hitting the front 10-8 with a converted try to Sam Scarlett.
That theme still continued after the Magpies lost the ball, and followed that up with giving away a penalty, from which PNG scored their third four pointer after hooker Wartovo Puara crashed over from close range. The 12-10 Hunters half time lead could have been the Magpies not long before the break, but a certain try went begging when the ball needed to go through the hands of an overlapping Magpies line but didn’t.
The second half saw more of the same with the PNG Hunters extending their lead to 18-10 through an Ase Boas try after another knock on gift from Souths Logan. And again a late hit on PNG Hunters on the sixth tackle by the Magpies allowed the Hunters great field position and possession and like the rest of the game duly helped themselves to another four pointer to Benjamin HETRA, which when converted gave the Hunters a 24-10 lead.
Just when it looked like the Hunters might run away with it, the Souths Logan Magpies had a period of dominance in attack, once again helped by Hunter errors. Tries in the 57th and 62nd minute to Daniel Tamou and PNG Kumuls International Matt Trnka got the score to 24-18, and it looked like the home side were on the verge of an upset at the 55th minutes mark.
But a clever grubber from dummy half on the last tackle was met by the unlikely recipient of Hunters Prop Henry Noki in the 68th minute and the lead extended to 30-18. Despite the deficit the Magpies continued to press and went close a couple of times to making it a very interesting ending without success. There was time for one more try to the Hunters, who signed off with a try to winger Oti Tony Bland after another great grubber was pounced on by a Hunters player.
In the end it was a great first up result for the Hunters after a somewhat scrappy affair, but there was plenty to like about the Magpies, and talk of much improvement this year and even some Top 6 predictions may not be too far off the mark. Especially if the sublime skills of Magpies stalwart Phil Dennis continue to be on show.
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