THE Papua New Guinea Hunters held out a star-studded Townsville Blackhawks side 28-26 in Kokopo yesterday.
The win saw the SP-sponsored side join the Queensland Cup leaders, the Blackhawks on 33 points with the latter keeping their position at the top of the table courtesy of a superior points differential.
Townsville coach Kristian Woolf was not taking any chances for the Round 20 encounter, naming a side peppered with National Rugby League players.
Robert Lui, Ray Thompson, Glenn Hall, Ricky Thorby, Kyle Feldt, Tom Humble, Anthony Mitchell and Neville Costigan all played in the NRL and their inclusion boosted the visitors’ ranks.
Despite running their best team out on Kalabond Oval in front of an estimated 5000 fans, the Neville Costigan-led side found themselves trailing 18-12 at the break with the Hunters having opened the scoring through centre Noel Zeming, pictured, in the 5th minute.
Zeming added a penalty while Hunters captain Israel Eliab had a bout of dejavu scoring his side’s second try, a 95m effort off a Lui grubber that was blocked and picked up by the No.6 who ran the length of the field much like he did in their Round 11 match at the Jack Manski Oval won by the PNG side 22-16.
At 12-0 the Hunters left a gaping hole on their line for Costigan to stroll over for the Blackhawks to register their first points of the match in the 19th minute. The visitors’ class came through again not long after with a set spanning the length of the field ending with backrower Kelepi Tanginoa carrying several defenders over the line in an amazing 20m surge.
Centre Feldt, who had kicked an earlier conversion, slotted the extras to draw level at 12-12.
Hunters’ impressive fullback Stargroth Amean replicated Tanginao’s heroics with his own twisting effort close to the line for the Hunters to grab the lead, 18-12, in the 36th minute which they kept at halftime.
The Hunters were the first to score in the second 40 through halfback Ase Boas who sliced through for a well-worked four-pointer as the home side took a 24-12 lead.
The No.7 was later helped off the field with a left ankle injury and replacement Atte Bina Wabo slotted in seamlessly providing an angled grubber close to the line for winger Adex Wera to scoop up and score in the corner to put the lead to 28-12 in the 51st minute.
The inevitable fight back started as half Michael Parker-Walshe and winger Zac Santo got tries in the space of six minutes for the Blackhawks to cut the deficit to eight points at 28-20 with a quarter of the match left to go.
The visitors’ intensity lifted noticeably during this period but the pressure was also on them as handling errors and poor execution stymied both sides.
Tanginao bagged his second try in the 71st minute with another effort close to the line and with the margin now just two points the crowd was kept on the edge of their seats as both sides fought to score the match-winner.
In the end the a knock on by Feldt with 39 seconds left on the clock and the Blackhawks only metres away from the chalk epitomised the closeness of the contest.
Source: The National /ONE PNG