Hunters and Phins play out entertaining draw

A glorious winter day greeted those lucky enough to head to Dolphin Oval on Sunday as the Redcliffe Dolphins welcomed the in form PNG Hunters who sit in second and were looking for a tenth straight win. They were rewarded with a game that showcased all that’s good with the Intrust Super Cup.

With patchy home form leading to just two home wins this season against the two lowest ranked sides, Redcliffe were up against it with the opponents in such good form. They were ready to play this Sunday afternoon, and their intensity and ball movement could leave one to conclude they countered the Hunters by playing exactly like them. And with the popularity of the Hunters style, to have two sides playing like that was always going to end well for the fans.

The home side opened up the scoring with their first set after a strong run from Charlie Faingaa early in the tackle count was finished off by a barnstorming Anthony Cherrington. The lead didn’t last long as just six minutes later the Hunters scored their first with hooker Wartovo Puara scoring in the corner. Both sides had chances to post the next try in the next ten minute period but errors kept the score 6-4 despite no lack of trying from the sides.

The PNG hooker did it all himself in the 18th minute with a zippy centre run followed up by a double chip kick and he eventually got his hand to the ball after several players tried to score or deny scoring. After what seems like five minutes with the video referee, the PNG Hunters finally had the lead 10-6. It was extended with PNG’s next set as a swirling bomb on the fifth tackle was spilled by the Redcliffe fullback and it was Israel Eliab who was first on the scene to gather the gift of six points for the try under the posts. At 16-6 it looked like another disappointing days for the locals.

Redcliffe’s efforts in attack and defence were rewarded in the 28th minutes as they capitalised on some PNG errors to score down the short side through Josh Rudolph after an offload from Aaron Whitchurch from over the try line whilst under plenty of PNG resistance and a near miss from Anthony Cherrington. The successful conversion made it 16-12.

A kick over the dead ball line from the kick off wasn’t immediately punished by the Dolphins but they did score one more time before half time, and it was a try that their opponents would have been proud of with plenty of ball movements and offloads from inside their own half leading to a try to an unlikely back up player in Redcliffe prop Jon Green. The conversion was kicked just before the half time siren, and the home side had themselves a handy 18-16 lead.

Redcliffe continued their late first half revival to post the second half’s first try after 5 minutes through fullback Josh Beehag, redeeming himself after his first half drop led to the Hunters third try. The scoreboard attendant obviously wasn’t keen on the conversion’s chances as he had posted the 22 for the home side well before the kick was lined up. He guessed correctly and Redcliffe led 22-16.

After relentless pressure on the back of repeat sets, the PNG Hunters finally crossed for their fourth try in the shadows of the Can Bar through Oti Bland Tony in the 56th minute. The home side’s welcome committee did enough to ensure the conversion wasn’t quite good enough. What was more than enough was the home sides kick off which went dead and that penalty and territory and possession led to another penalty in front of the posts which the visitors took the opportunity to level the game.

The home side got their chance at collecting two points in the 65th minute to edge ahead, but the kick was waived away. But with no time to concern themselves about two lost points, the Dolphins had six to celebrate as they scored from the dropout return through an unlikely second try to Jon Green. With the simple conversion slotted and just 12 minutes to go, the Hunters 10th straight win looked unlikely.

It looked more likely just a few minutes later as the Hunters started a movement from inside their 40m and it was finished off by fullback Stargroth Armean after their usual frenzy of offloads. With an easy conversion accepted, it was 28-28 with just 8 minutes to play. Those final eight minutes were played like the previous 72, with end to end runs, near misses, and plenty of rugged defence as both sides looked for the winning try.

Eventually it came down to field goals attempts in the last few minutes, none of which from either side were terribly good or successful, and the end result was a draw at 28-28.

Having heard many discussions from the punters around Dolphin Oval, there didn’t seem to be anyone unhappy with the end result or the lack of golden point time, a point to note to the NRL in their pursuit to be like American Football. That is despite the argument that Redcliffe were slightly the better side and probably deserved the two more.

Other notables from the game was some of the defence from Redcliffe lock Tyson Cleal amongst others, which was ferocious and right out of the PNG playbook. Although that enthusiasm led him to go on report for a misjudged second half hit. Also entertaining was a nomination for angriest man in rugby league, as the Redcliffe winger Curtis Johnson typified his side’s mindset for the game with an intense performance. And as always, Willie Minoga did what he does best.

All in all both sides and sets of fans, and no doubt the TV viewers at home, went away from the game with plenty of satisfaction at seeing plenty of entertaining attack and brutal defence.

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