The SP PNG Hunters have recorded their second win in the 2021 Intrust Super Cup by defeating Mackay Cutters 26 points to 14 in Mackay.
A large contingent of PNG supporters urged on the Hunters as they unleashed three tries in a 14-minute blitz in the first half to take control of the match.
The victory mirrored the Hunters’ remarkable start to the year as they overcame some early setbacks to register their second win from three matches.
Winger Brendon Gutuno broke his arm in just the third minute, forcing the Hunters into a quick reshuffle before Mackay opened the scoring six minutes later with a try to centre Michael Bell.
But the Hunters began to make ground through the middle as captain Ila Alu led the charge and his teammates followed.
Samuel Yegip (13th minute) and Sylvester Nano (23rd minute) scored tries to push the Hunters ahead before Junior Rau’s 27th minute try gave the visitors a handy lead.
It’s been a brave start by the Hunters – they were unable to play any trial matches because of COVID restrictions and they were forced to relocate to Runaway Bay on the Gold Coast for the season.
But they shook the life out of heavyweights Wynnum Manly in round one and then powered past Ipswich Jets and Mackay tonight to put the competition on notice.
“We’re very pleased with our start because we knew we faced a challenge given the unusual circumstances for us this season,” coach Matt Church said.
“We’ll never use that as an excuse though – we know that means nothing when we take the field.
“I was proud of the way our guys stuck to their task. We wanted to challenge them through the middle and we were able to change some angles and get some nice results.”
Gutuno, who scored three tries against Ipswich last week, was taken to hospital, where doctors diagnosed a broken arm that will sideline him for several weeks.
His teammates dug deep though, withstanding Mackay’s fast start to the second half that pushed them within touching distance with a 16-8 scoreline.
But tries to Watson Boas (59th minute) and Edwin Ipape (68th minute) moved the Hunters clear before a late Mackay try through Kyle Krisanski-Kennedy.
The Hunters also rued some tries disallowed on the final pass that would have sent them further ahead.
“We really started to play well once we overcame those setbacks and that enabled us to take the lead,” Church said.
“The Cutters never go away – they always continue to challenge – so we had to keep playing well.
“There are no easy games in this competition so we’ll get another good idea of where we’re at when we take on the Sunshine Coast next Saturday.”
The Hunters will host the Falcons at Runaway Bay while the Cutters will travel to Rockhampton to meet the Capras in Rivalry Round with both teams seeking their first win of the season.
SP PNG HUNTERS 26 (Samuel Yegip, Sylvester Namo, Junior Rau, Watson Boas, Edwin Ipape tries, Charlie Simon three goals) bt MACKAY CUTTERS 14 (Michael Bell, Kane Bradley, Kyle Krisanski-Kennedy tries, Ata Hingano goal) at BB Print Stadium, Mackay.