We talked up the PNG Hunters first game in Brisbane for 2017 against Souths Logan Magpies, and it didn’t disappoint. As we don’t get to go to many PNG Hunters games live, we thought we would pass on all the best action for those who couldn’t be there.
Whilst the weather kept the fair weather friends away, those who made the effort saw a high quality game of Intrust Super Cup, dominated in a lot of parts by two big and ferocious forward packs. And it was tough and entertaining. And in conditions so hot and wet that it was almost as if the Hunters had brought the weather with them.
The PNG Hunters ultimately prevailed 22-20, but it wasn’t without some worry, and a missed sideline conversion after the siren to hold on. The Hunters looked comfortable after a brace of Big Willie Minoga tries, and they led 22-10. But to give the Magpies credit they never gave up, and two late tries in the second half, the last of which was scored with just 12 seconds on the clock, made the game very exciting.
Here are some of the best things we enjoyed from the game. Why not catch them for yourself in SEQ or PNG and in between by following our PNG Hunters Draw for 2017.
IT WAS A GAME THAT PLAYED OUT THROUGH THE BIG MEN IN THE MIDDLE EARLY
One of the many things we were looking forward to before the game was the battle of the big forwards.
The Magpies had a bunch of fringe Broncos players, Joe Ofahengaue being the biggest names of a big group of forwards that more than matched the PNG Hunters. The big number 8 for the Magpies was so fired up he was called out early by the referee to calm down. But where the Hunters lack in names they more than made up for up the middle and their forwards were equally impressive. The big hits weren’t bad from either side too. Better them than us on the sidelines with only the weather to worry about.
Even Broncos coach Wayne Bennett agreed on the impressive forward battle as we very briefly chatted at half time.
GOOD DAY TO HAVE THE NUMBER ONES AS DOUBLES
Something eventually had to crack after such a tough opening, and it was the fullbacks that opened the scoring for their respective sides in the first half. Stargroth Amean opened the game’s scoring as he took advantage of a Souths Logan drop ball from a kick return to score three tackles later after a neat blind side play in the 13th minute. Souths Logan’s fullback Jamayne Isaako took the full advantage of back to back penalties for the Magpies to respond in the same corner at the other end of the field in the 21st minute.
Good news if anyone was lucky to have One and One as their doubles.
ERRORS AND PENALTIES PUNISHED BY TRIES
As above with the first try for each side, the next try to each side before the break came on the back of either an error, or repeat sets thanks to penalties.
PNG took advantage first as Paul Wawa did well to stay inside the line as he scooted down the line after a fine backline movement that covered the field to score. PNG Hunters had the ball courtesy of a kick on an early tackle that went out on the full.
Souths Logan scored just before the break on their third repeat set after PNG penalties on their line gave the Magpies plenty of ball. Matt Minto went through a sizeable gap to stroll over almost untouched, after running a great line, and Magpies captain putting doubt in the Hunters minds.
In fact Phil Dennis was always dangerous from when he came off the bench, and is always one to watch when the Magpies play. He is an old school footballer with old school skills, and is always lively and dangerous. New recruit Matt Minto also brings a touch of class to any side he plays for
A DOUBLE FOR BIG WILLIE MINOGA EXCITES AND WHY WOULDN’T IT
The game loosened up slightly in the second half, and with it came the Hunters best period. They seemed to have opened up a little after the break and looked much more dangerous with the ball as a result.
Gurgler favourite Willie Minoga scored the first of his two tries, as he ran at least 60 metres after one of his teammates jolted the ball from a Souths Logan played with a thunderous tackle. Big Willie still had plenty of work to do, but evaded the Magpies well enough to score. He loved it. We loved it.
If the first try was about right place, right time, the second of Willie Minoga’s tries was about the big man at his very best. After some great lead up work from his centre partner Adex Wera on the other side of the ground, big Willie steamed onto the ball and was unstoppable from 20 metres out. It gave the Hunters a 22-10 lead at the 60th minute mark and they looked like they might just kick on.
SOUTHS LOGAN MADE IT VERY INTERESTING IN THE END
But the Hunters did not kick on after Willie Minoga’s tries, and they threatened the Hunters for the majority of the last 15 minutes, and their momentum was rewarded with a try to Scott Doyle in the 69th minute who duly converted to keep the Magpies within a converted try.
The Hunters defused the Magpies in that last part of the game, but with just 12 seconds on the clock, a pinpoint kick from Matt Minto to winger Cameron Booth set up a grandstand finish as the siren sounded mid celebration for Souths Logan.
It meant a sideline conversion was needed by Scott Doyle to give the Magpies a hard earned, and no less deserved one competition point. It unfortunately was not converted for the home fans, and the Hunters ran out 22-20 winners.
One thing come out of the game, one is that it will take a very good side to beat Souths Logan this year, and the PNG Hunters look like a very good side indeed on what we’ve been able to see live today and live stream in Round 1.
We previously said that this is the year for the Hunters to fulfil their potential and win the competition, and nothing seen on Sunday has diverted our thinking yet. For a while there, they seemed to play a little more like their 2015 vintage, and it seemed to bother the Magpies and was the backbone of their two try burst to skip out to a lead. As a fan of their cavalier style, but also wanting to see them win, let’s hope the right mix in found throughout the season to entertain and win.
Souths Logan looked more impressive than they did in the same fixture last year which also caught the eye, and the Magpies only just missed out on finals in 2016. Perhaps this is the year they return.
Finally, strange to see Willie Minoga in the centres, but anything that keeps him on the field for nearly 80 minutes is always a good thing.