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Aiton leads Hunters to a flying start on home soil

Updated: Apr 27

The SP PNG Hunters opened their account on a high note after thumping the Wynnum Manly Seagulls with a scoreline of 36-22 in the round one clash of the 2024 Queensland Rugby League Hostplus Cup on Saturday, March 9th, at Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.


The physical confrontation between the two sides was felt in the early proceedings of the contest. After 12 minutes into the game, the Seagulls opened up the match through centre Connor Broadhurst, who received a short face-pass from half-back Bryce Donovan to score the first 4-pointer. With an unsuccessful conversion, the visitors took a 4-0 lead over the home side.


A few minutes later, the Hunters responded with a try through debutant centre Clent Lama in the 21st minute, who scooped the ball quickly from the ruck and barged his way over the try line. The conversion was unsuccessful, locking the scores at 4-points apiece.


Six minutes later, elusive fullback Sanny Wabo, did a 360 spin on the oncoming defender in Seagulls’ 30-meter line and offloaded nicely to winger Brandon Nima, who ran past two defenders in their wake to score an untouched try. Lama failed to nail the extras, leaving the scores at 8-4.


Through territorial gains and ball possession, the high-flying Hunters scored again through Sanny Wabo in the 29th minute, who was a recipient of five-eight Sakias Komati’s deft grubber kick. The conversion was added effortlessly, increasing the lead to 12-4.


With three minutes to go before the half-time, the Seagulls scored their second try through an individual brilliance from captain Bryce Donovan, reducing the deficit to 2 points (12-10) at the break.


The second half was a different ball game, as the SP brewery-sponsored side tightened their grip on the game. In the 43rd minute of the second spell, hooker Judah Rimbu scooped up the ball a few centre-meters outside of the try line and assisted the towering bench forward Weiyah Koi, who bulldozed his way to the try line. Lama converted the goal, extending the lead to 16-10.


Through repeated sets, the hosts took advantage of it and crossed over the line in the 49th minute through Jordan Pat, who showed brute strength and carried five defenders to ground the ball under the uprights. Lama easily nailed the conversion, increasing the lead to 22-10.


The Hunters maintained their ascendency and rhythm, scoring another try in the 53rd minute. Komati made a line break and passed the ball to Nima, who offloaded back to Lama to snatch his second try. Lama successfully slotted his own try, extending the lead to 30-10.


Although the Hunters were leading comfortably, the Seagulls were undone. The visitors’ determined spirit saw them cross over the line in the 63rd minute through second rower Josh Stucky. With a successful conversion, the points were reduced to 30-16.


With momentum on their back, the Seagulls scored again through Stuckey in the 69th minute, who bagged his second try. Captain Donovan nailed the conversion, reducing the points to 30-22.


Just under seven minutes to go before full-time, Komati passed a short ball to Robert Mathias, who offloaded the ball to Lama and scored his third try. Komati successfully nailed the conversion, leaving the full-time scores at 36-22.


The season opener ended in an emphatic fashion with a high scoring affair. Rookie Hunters coach Paul Aiton, started his first coaching stint on a positive note. Debutant Clent Lama had a memorable debut, scoring three tries while Sakias Komati and Sanny Wabo were very busy assisting the try scorers. The forward pack did the hard yards and set the platform upfront; the back line gained yardage; and the spine executed to precision, starting their 2024 campaign in style.


The SP PNG Hunters will take on the Central Queensland Capras in round two of the QRL Hostplus Cup on Sunday, March 16th, in Queensland.

Photo credit: SP PNG Hunters | Facebook

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