The PNG Hunters have taken out the 2017 Minor Premiership with a week to spare after beating the Wynnum Seagulls at home 28-22, but not after doing it the hard way.
The Hunters had to come from behind twice against the Seagulls, and once again from a deadlock after Wynnum had equalised halfway through the second half. Two tries in five minutes from the 63rd minute proved the pivotal period for the Hunters as they 28-16 lead was enough to see off a late Seagulls try, coincidentally from PNG international David Mead in the 71st minute. The Hunters held on, and with it confirmed they will finish the season first.
PNG let the Seagulls lead twice during the first half as Wynnum scored in the 7th minute, and replied to Stargroth Amean’s first of the day in the 13th minute with David Mead’s first of the day just before half time.
Israel Eliab continued his rich recent try scoring form with a try just after half time to lock the scores up at 10-10, and they took the lead for the second time when Nixon Putt crossed 9 minutes later. The Seagulls captain Mitch Frei crossed in the 59th minute to lock the scores up at 16-16. The previously mentioned quick two try burst from the Hunters followed which was enough to give them the win, and with it the minor premiership. A tremendous effort in their fourth season in the competition.
They can end the season on a high note next weekend against Tweed Heads, but face a team that has already beaten them at Port Moresby and has an appetite for beating ladder leaders and is in a battle to avoid last. Wynnum meanwhile are in solid midfield and end their season at Bishop Park next Sunday in the last game of the regular season.
PNG HUNTERS 28
Tries: Stargroth Amean (13m), Israel Eliab (43m), Nixon Putt (52m), Stargroth Amean (63m), Ase Boas (68m)
Goals: Ase Boas 4/5 Conv
WYNNUM SEAGULLS 22
Tries: Paora Kemp (7m), David Mead (35m), Mitch Frei (59m), David Mead (71m)
Goals: Shaun Nona 3/4 Conv
The equation for the PNG Hunters is simple, win one of their last two games and they take out their first minor premiership since joining the Intrust Super Cup in 2014.
This Saturday will be the last home games during the regular season, and what a way to repay their loyal fans than to get the win that will earn them the great honour of best of the regular season. Whilst it is not as stunning a feat as Townsville’s minor premiership in their debut season, it is a fair effort if they do achieve it within four seasons as they have no reliance on a feeder arrangement and their players come from the local competition.
Stargroth Amean has been named despite going off with a head knock last weekend, and will be a welcome return for the PNG side. Try scoring machine Adex Wera is named on an extended bench, but will find it hard to dislodge the two starting centres Israel Eliab and Willie Minoga who were both superb last weekend in Townsville.
Wynnum are set for a solid midfield finish, but no finals. They can spoil the party, and Port Moresby has been no fortress in 2017 for the Hunters with surprise losses at home to Norths and Tweed Heads, and a last start home draw against Mackay. The late season introduction of Shaun Nona will be promising if they can keep him for next season.
But it will all be about the Hunters, and it could be a big day out in Port Moresby on Sunday afternoon.
1. Stargroth Amean 2. Bland Abavu 3. Israel Eliab 4. Willie Minoga 5. Butler Morris 6. Ase Boas (c) 7. Watson Boas 8. Wellington Albert 9. Wartovo Puara 10. Enock Maki 11. David Loko 12. Nixon Putt 13. Stanton Albert 14. Wawa Paul 15. Rahdly Brawa 16. Moses Meninga 17. Karo Kauna Jr. 18. Esau Siune 19. Brandy Peter 20. Adex Wera
Coach: Michael Marum
Wynnum Manly Seagulls
1. Daniel Ogden 2. Peter Gubb 3. Jeriah Goodrich 4. David Mead 5. Jack Goodsell 6. Shaun Nona 7. Travis Burns 8. Adam Tuimavave-Gerrard 9. Jayden Berrell 10. Billy Solah 11. Salesi Funaki 12. Alex Barr 13. Mitch Frei (c) 14. John Te Reo 15. Stedman Lefau 16. Josh Hoffman 17. Semisi Ahoafi
Coach: Adam Brideson
|National Football Stadium|
|Lloyd Robertson Oval, Port Morseby|