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QUICK WRAP: Hunters vs Cutters
29 April 2023 - Papua New Guinea play Mackay in round 7 of the Queensland Cup at the PNG Football Stadium, Port Moresby
Was the game worth watching?
Given the Hunters’ whole vibe is generally extremely positive and now that Hunters’ home games have the local commentators, I’ll probably be watching any game at the Santos National Football Stadium for the rest of the year. However, the quality of their opposition makes this one you could give a miss.
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Once the Hunters got on the board, it didn’t seem like the Cutters were ever in a particularly threatening position. Mackay had plenty of opportunities to attempt scoring points but were often their own worst enemy - see the massive take from Josh Smith in 75’, where he proceeds to fall over about ten short of the line and lose the ball. PNG kept them contained and pushed back harder. While the Hunters’ playmaking isn’t super smooth, it was effective enough to turn their power running into sufficient points to win this one.
The Cutters held 54% of the ball and completed at 80% and were only just marginally out-gained in the aggregate and turned all of that into the princely sum of 10 points. Mackay were too slow and not creative enough.
The Hunters gashed the Cutters defence. First with hard running to gain yards and then with speed to take advantage of poor reads to break the line. It was not an overly productive game but the Hunters had the edge where it counts.
Did you notice?
This section is probably going to become more of a scouting report than a tactical breakdown. There are three fullback prospects that I’ve got pencilled in: Morea Morea (Hunters), Sua Faalogo (Falcons) and Keano Kini (Bears). More on Kini tomorrow, let’s look at Morea today.
Morea is a 21 year old fullback out of Papa in the Central Province of Papua New Guinea, just north of Port Moresby. He made his debut this year in round 1 against the Clydesdales after playing for the Central Dabaris in Digicel Cup. At 174cm and 74kg, he’s on the slight side but that does not seem to matter.
First, to the tools. Coverage in defence:
Footwork and offload:
Put it all together. The Hunters go left out of the scrum base and Morea is the first receiver. He beats Finnegan with a step to the right and is eventually manhandled to the ground by Stevens.
A tackle back towards the posts later, the Hunters send it right with a wobbly ball out to Mavoko. Mavoko shovels it in behind Yakopa to Morea. The Cutters have numbers but Yakopa distracts Gill and Morea sucks in Cooper-Tetevano for just long enough to create a gap for Rodrick Tai to slip through and leave the Cutters in his wake.
But why go to Morea on first receiver from a scrum? That’s how the Hunters got their first points on the board. Raw speed and enough of a deception with the ball gets Josh Smith and Bayley Gill akimbo. Morea hits the gas and that’s a try.
The Cutters are not the gold standard of rugby league, even in Queensland Cup, and Morea’s highlights here are not as sick as the hattrick he put up against the Tigers, but the kid’s clearly got the making of something. He’s someone to keep an eye on.
The near psychotic violence that the Hunters would begin their games under Mat Church (now at Easts) seems to have been transformed into extremely hard running under Stanley Tepend. Nima and Tai, in particular, but also Wane and Kot have adopted the Australian style of beginning kick return sets with a few hard runs from the backs before handing over to the forwards to pound the rock. With that aggression out of their system, the Hunters seem to work more like a team in defence, with more bodies getting involved in each tackle instead of decapitating the opposition.
Brandon Finnegan was the only lively looking figure on the Cutters’ side of the ball when they were in attack. Mackay seemed pretty aimless in the Hunters 20, opting for extremely slow shifts from side to side and then setting up for a kick from midfield to the right wing. It worked the one time Camilleri got above Nima’s shoulder.
After struggling to get going in the first 20 minutes of the game, Mackay spent most of the back quarter of the game cramping. The Cutters might have only been operating at anything like an optimum for half the game and otherwise struggled with the conditions. Even when the scores were relatively close, they never seemed to actually threaten.
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