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SP Hunters clip Blackhawks wings again

THE SP PNG Hunters are now the only team in the Intrust Super Cup to beat competition leaders Townsville Blackhawks twice following the 28-26 victory in Kokopo on Sunday.
The top of the table clash lived up to its billing with the two competition points still available for the taking with just seconds on the clock.The Hunters lead was under serious threat when the Blackhawks had possession of the football just metres out from the home side’s line.
But much to the delight of the 5000-plus strong Hunters fans at the Kalabond Oval, Blackhawks centre Kyle Feldt coughed up possession with a crucial set squandered. The Hunters regained the ball and wound the clock down and celebrated as referee Peter Anderson making his debut as the centre man in the Intrust Super Cup signaled the end of the thriller.
Feldt obviously disappointed for letting his team down couldn’t hold back his emotions kicking the ball away in frustration.
Peter Anderson had to take up the whistle when appointed referee Chris Anderson couldn’t make the trip due to passport issues forcing fourth match official Bob Morton, a 67-year-old veteran who was to have been in Kokopo as a referees mentor, taking up the touch judges’ flag to run the lines after a 16-year lay-off.
The SP PNG Hunters now move to equal 33 points with Blackhawks with the points for and against keeping the Townsville side in the pole position. Blackhawks coach Kristian Woolf heaped praise on the Hunters for holding out his team for the second time, the first time in Townsville in Round 11 when the PNG side caused the upset of the round with a 22-16 win. Hunters are the only two teams that have beaten the star- studded side littered with NRL players since the Blackhawks made their debut in the ISC competition this year. The other is Ipswich Jets in Round 2.
Despite being a debut team the Blackhawks have been a well-drilled side which has dominated the competition occupying the pole position on the premiership table. When the Hunters upstaged the Blackhawks in Round 11, the Townsville side was minus most of their big guns like Robert Lui and Ray Thompson.
Sunday’s game was therefore a better test of the Hunters ability as this time Lui and Thompson and others like Feldt, Ricky Thorby and Anthony Mitchell, took the field for the Kalabond clash.
The Hunters led by captain Israel Eliab started the match in great fashion leading at half-time 18-12.
At one stage both sides were level 12-all following a Neville Costigan try before the Hunters rallied to push away after a great Stargroth Amean try when he used sheer strength to power over.
The Hunters looked set for a runaway victory when halfback Ase Boas and winger Adex Wera scored for the home side in the second half to lead 28-12.But the Blackhawks plugged away scoring three unanswered tries as Lui and Thompson assisted by two- try hero Kelepi Tangino exerted their class calling on their vast experience to lead the Blackhawks fightback. Tries to Michael Parker-Walshe (57 mins), Zac Santo (66min) and Tanginoa (70 mins), put the game into tense moments for both sides.
For the Hunters they can string together some effective attacks but defence which let them down in last year’s debut season seems to have improved tremendously. On the Sunday, what has been a weaker side in defence where Bland Abavu plays from in past games was targeted and tested continuously by the Blackhawks.
But it was a sigh of great relief that Abavu and his team- mates on that side successfully repelled these attacks. Coach Michael Marum pleased that his team had prevailed against a class side such as the Blackhawks now shifts his attention to preparing his men for another tough match against 2014 runners-up Easts Tigers in Kokopo this Sunday.
While Marum sticks to his policy to take “one game at a time” the assignment doesn’t get any easier as following Tigers, a team that beat them away, the Hunters travel away to Ipswich Jets in Round 22.
The tough road continues when the Hunters hosts in Port Moresby another top six team Wynnum Manly Seagulls, a side that the Hunters lost to 36-18 in Round 6 away.
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