The Blackhawks secured the minor premiership with a 46-22 win over the Redcliffe Dolphins at Jack Manski Oval on the same afternoon and will host Michael Marum’s side in the second weekend of September.
The Hunters’ 20-point win came at a price, with prop Henry Wan limping off the field late in the second half with a left ankle injury.
Coach Marum described the injury as “minor”.
Fullback Stargroth Amean, a two-try hero, was put on report by referee Tim Rutherford for a dangerous challenge on his opposite Talor Walters early in the second half.
The home fans failed to pack the Sir Guise Stadium on a day that had the city hosting another sporting event, with the Pukpuks claiming the Oceania Rugby Cup, thrashing the Solomon Islands 58-19 at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium.
The fact that organisers in conjunction with the ticketing agency Stop N Shop had taken measures to curb scalping with a 10-ticket limit for individual buyers meant the proliferation of ticket sales by legitimate means or otherwise in the 48 hours after they were available on the open market was a contributing factor to the estimated 9000-plus turn out.
The Hunters, running into a stiff easterly breeze, led 20-12 at halftime thanks to a blistering start with tries to prop Esau Siune, captain Israel Eliab and Amean which saw the home side take a 16-0 after 14 minutes.
Siune’s try was the easiest he will ever score after an Ase Boas grubber bounced off the post and wrong-footing the Bears defenders for the Kundiawa man trailing to gather and plant under the uprights in the sixth minute. Eliab’s four-pointer three minutes later was a typical effort, with the 25-year-old shrugging off a would-be tackler and stepping off his left foot to put Walters in no-man’s land on a 40m run to the line.
The Bears hit back after halfback Ryley Jacks ghosted through a half gap to set up back-rower Hayden Schwass in the 19th minute.
They followed it up 10 minutes later with a dubious corner try to replacement wing Waka Wanahi.
Winger Kevin Gordon of Gold Coast Titans fame slotted both conversions and the visitors crept to within four of the Hunters. The Hunters’ seven handling errors in the opening 40 made free flowing football a little difficult but they capped the half off with a try to wing Adex Wera which showed everyone what their backline is capable of when given font-foot ball inside the opposition half.
Centre Noel Zeming opened the second 40 with a try off another Boas kick and Amean sliced through feeble defence off a kick return to see the home side take a 32-12 lead with 30 minutes of play left.
Thompson Teteh, who set up Wera’s first half try with a clever pass, bagged himself one going in untouched off a scrum 30m out.
At 38-12 the contest was over by the 63rd minute but the visitors showed pluck and determination to rattle off two tries Schwass brothers Hayden, for his second, and five-eighth Daniel.
The Hunters though had the last say of the afternoon with Eliab barging over from close range to get his second try and push the side past 40.
The team will take a two-day break before regrouping to prepare for the Blackhawks. The National