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Lahanis sent Gurias home

The Minor Semi-Final of the Digicel-ExxonMobil Cup saw the Goroka Lahanis defeating the Agmark Gurias in the do-or-die battle at the Santos National Football Stadium on Sunday (20th August).

The one-legged men from the East were the victors of the match, sealing a 24-18 win and handing the giants from Mountain Fire their tickets home.

Lahanis took everyone by surprise and scored three tries within 20 minutes. The first try was scored by Lahanis captain Charlie Buka, after a fast play inside the ten-meter line. He complemented his try by successfully nailing in the conversion goal. A few minutes later, Charlie touched down with his second try right beside the post and nailed the conversion successfully, bringing the score to 12-0. Four minutes later, Lahanis full-back scored a try on the right edge and Charlie kicked in another successful conversion, extending the lead to 18-0.

With 15 minutes remaining, Gurias responded with a try, as their center and powerhouse, Alex Max showed brute strength with pace and ran through the defense and broke the left wing to touch down with the first 4-pointer. The conversion was unsuccessful. The second try was nicely set up by veteran Ase Boas, which was put down by Chris Benjamin on the right wing. The conversion was unsuccessful. A late penalty from the Gurias gave the Lahanis another two points, leaving the halftime scores at 20-8.

Gurias went back into the second half with high intensity and scored their third try after six minutes into the game. Alex Max was the beneficiary of the try, who side-stepped and ran past a couple of defenders, and grounded the ball on the sideline, bagging his second try and reducing the deficit to 6 points.

The Tavurvur lads scored two tries in the second half, while the mud-men from Goroka scored a try to seal off the deal, leaving the full-time scores at 24-18. Gurias tried to make a late comeback, but time was not on their side. Regardless, it was a grandstand finish.

Gurias Coach Francis Ray said his team went down fighting, despite having a tough season and will return better next year.

“We really lost the game in the first half when Lahanis scored 18 points. My boys did try their best to catch up but unfortunately, time caught up with us,” coach Ray said.

“This season was a tough one for us because we had to rebuild a new team altogether, as most of the boys from last year had left, and we had to find replacements and train. This season wasn’t a smooth one, we lost some games and won some games. It is good that we came into the minor finals, we lost to Lahanis. Kudos to them, they were hungrier than us for sure,” he added.

Meanwhile, Lahanis Coach Charlie Wabo said he was confident that they would win this match. He also congratulated his forwards for holding down the turf and creating space to score tries.

“Defeating Hela Wigmen in that last game really gave us a confidence boost, and we knew we would win this game. We need to improve our line speed and defense. Concentrate more on our halves to carry out some tactics. I’m grateful to my forwards for putting up a great fight today. I had worked with my forwards throughout the week in preparation to match the Gurias’ forwards and that paid off well,” coach Wabo said.

The preliminary-final match will see the Lahanis taking on the Lae Snax Tigers. Wabo said his team is prepared to meet the Tigers.

“Tigers are a bunch of great and big-name players but as the underdogs, we will play like the underdogs and take one team at a time. And will prepare for the game next week.”

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