A stunning second half performance saw the PNG Hunters defeat the Souths Logan Magpies 32-30 at Davies Park on Sunday, in a game that few who were lucky enough to see it, won’t forget any time soon.
Hunters coach Matt Church spent some of the off season working on his squads’ mental game, rebuilding pride, confidence and self-belief in a team that suffered some battering’s in 2019. Those qualities were all on display during the game.
“Stoked for the win, but immensely proud of the boys, the way the hung together and worked for each other was special.”, said Hunters coach Matt Church.
The Magpies dominated early and opened the scoring in the 4th minute with a try to Vaea Vaea down the left-hand edge. Second rower Kevin Appo responded for the Hunters in the 10th minute, trailing through to collect an offload and score under the posts. Ase Boas slotted the conversion to give the Hunters an early 6-4 lead.
There were plenty of promising signs in the first half for the Hunters, as they completed 10 of 13 sets and played plenty of free-flowing football, reminiscent of previous Hunters side.
Enoki Maki, Junior Rop and Brandon Nima led the way both in attack and defence. However crucial errors, poor options on the final tackle and some poor communication cost them, and the home side made the most of the opportunities they were offered.
Tries to Jack Goodsell, Tom Dearden, Tesi Niu, Rory Ferguson and Mitch Frei and three conversions by Guy Hamilton saw the Magpies steadily build their lead to 30-6 in the 50th minute.
Church’s half time message to his troops was clear, they needed to believe in themselves, shorten their passing game in the windy conditions and make their tackles.
There may be over 750 languages in Papua New Guinea however there was clearly no language barrier as his charges executed his words to perfection.
A second try to Appo in the 52nd minute and three straight to sparkling fullback Terry Wapi (in the 55th, 58th and 73rd minutes) along with four conversions from Boas ensured the scores were tied by the 75th minute.
Church had made young gun Stanley Olo wait 45 minutes for his Intrust Super Cup debut, however when he got on the field he showed exactly why he is so highly regarded within the Hunters camp.
He was dynamic from dummy half and linked exceptionally well with his team mates, particularly the left edge of Rau Junior Kobale and Joe Joshua.
A tense final five minutes saw the Magpies miss an attempted field goal and the Hunters sweep down field, aided by back to back penalties from the home side. A late hit on playmaker Boas saw him laid out on the Davies Park turf and fittingly, after he had recovered, he stepped up to land the penalty and seal a memorable victory for his side.
After the game Church said that he was particularly happy with his team’s second half effort, especially the way they worked hard to control the game and build pressure.,
“You can fall into a trap of trying to make them play with too much structure, you need some structure, but you also need to let them do what they do best.”
Round two sees the Hunters take on the Townsville Blackhawks while the Magpies face the Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the TV game.