The PNG Hunters have booked a historic Intrust Super Cup Grand Final berth, after defeating the Redcliffe Dolphins in a tight encounter between the season’s first and second sides.
A momentous occasion for the PNG Hunters side, who won in front of a packed house at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby, as they have now won their first finals game at the fourth attempt, and fulfilled a dream since their inception in 2014.
They will now await the winner of next weekend’s big game between the Redcliffe Dolphins and Sunshine Coast Falcons after the Falcons won the knockout battle of the Melbourne Storm feeder clubs by defeating the Easts Tigers in a thrilling game.
Whilst not a point scoring thriller, the match in Port Moresby was as you’d expect between the Hunters and the Dolphins. Previous to their previous meeting where the Dolphins beat the Hunters convincingly 28-12, the matches between these sides have always been tight and Sunday’s major final was no exception.
In fact there was just the one try in the match, and that came in the 62nd minute to Hunters five-eighth, captain, Intrust Super Cup player of the year, and People’s Choice Winner Ase Boas. Who else.
His conversion saw the Hunters take the lead for the first time in the match after Redcliffe had taken the lead in the 15th minute via a penalty goal, and the visitors extended that further just before half time with another penalty goal to lead 4-0 at the break.
The Dolphins get another bite at making the Intrust Super Cup Grand Final next weekend at home to the Falcons. The Hunters players and fans can now start dreaming.
The Falcons continued their 2017 finals campaign by overcoming the Easts Tigers in a thrilling game at Suzuki Stadium between two sides full of talent, thanks in part to both sides feeder arrangement with the Melbourne Storm.
But it was one of the lesser known players who took some of the limelight with a Man of the Match performance in Jye Ballinger. The versatile forward secured a hat trick of tries in addition to a mountain of hard work throughout the match.
Matt Pitman opened the scoring in the 6th minute after the Tigers sustained some early pressure from the Tigers, and they led until Jye Ballinger’s first of the day in the 21st minute. Easts skipped out to 14-6 half time lead courtesy of a 27th minute penalty goal, and a try to man with the finest moustache in modern day rugby league – Matt Zgrajewski.
Sunshine Coast hit back after half time with the second and third tries to Jye Ballinger, and at the 52nd minute, Sunshine Coast were leading for the first time of the afternoon. Not for long though, as Easts scored a few minutes later though winger Jarrod McInally, and the score was locked at 18-18.
It was then the Falcons turn to skip ahead as they scored two quick tries and with just over 10 minutes to go had the vital eight point lead at 26-18. Easts crashed over through with five minutes to go to reduce the score to 26-22 through Robbie Rochow, but despite their best efforts the Tigers were unable to break through the Sunshine Coast in an exciting last few minutes.
The loss unfortunately means the end of the Tigers season, and the Falcons live for another week, and face Redcliffe to make the Grand Final against the Hunters.
PNG HUNTERS 6
Tries: Ase Boas
Goals: Ase Boas 1/1 Conv
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS 4
Goals: Jonus Pearson 1 Pen, Hugh Pratt 1 Pen
SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS 26
Tries: Jye Ballinger (21m), Jye Ballinger (42m), Jye Ballinger (52m), Chris Lewis (62m), Scott Drinkwater (67m)
Goals: Joe Stimson 3 Conv
EASTS TIGERS 18
Tries: Mathew Pitman (6m), Matt Zgrajewski (31m), Jarrod McInally (58m), Robbie Rochow (75m)
Goals: Billy Walters 2 Conv, 1 Pen
REDCLIFFE DOLPHINS v SUNSHINE COAST FALCONS
Sunday 17th September – 1:40pm
PNG HUNTERS v Redcliffe/Sunshine Coast
Sunday 24th September