A TWO-TRY effort to Edwin Ipapa has helped the PNG Digital Cup Representative Team to an 18-12 victory over the Country under 23s team, featuring Shellharbour’s Jack Kavanagh and Jamberoo’s Corey Grigg, at Port Moresby’s National Football Stadium.
Played in blistering conditions, the Country under 23s were forced to defend their tryline several times in the opening minutes before a 90-metre intercept try to Owen Blair brought the crowd to their feet, with a Greg Inglis inspired goanna try celebration drawing applause from all sections of the crowd.
With both sides working hard in defence through the middle, it was Papua New Guinea who scored next with Muka Peter Kalu taking advantage of a deft offload from Kennedy Ben, to the delight of the home crowd.
An unforced error from Country allowed the visitors to take the lead heading into half-time; with Edwin Ipape splitting the defence just seconds out from the break, for an 8-6 scoreline.
The opening of the second-half saw several thundering defensive efforts from both sides, with Country rising to the challenge of the enthusiastic opposition defence.
A burrowing effort from Zac Green allowed Country to take the lead before an unforced error opened the door for the local side, with Brandon Nima crossing out wide for a 12-all scoreline heading into the final quarter.
With both teams fighting hard to bread the deadlock, it would be another unforced error that presented the home side with an opportunity and it was Ipapa who would once again make them pay with a strong effort to take the lead for the Digital Cup side.
Country pressed hard in the final minutes and went close to breaking the line several times, but there was to be no miracle victory, with PNG holding on for a well earned victory.
Speaking after the game, Country coach Josh Cale believed it was great experience for his side.
“Obviously we would have loved to have won the game, but both sides can be proud of their efforts,” Cale said.
“Losing Joe Besgrove after just a few minutes was tough, but the boys rolled their sleeves up and gave it their best in really tough conditions.
“We didn’t help ourselves with unforced errors bringing them back into the game on a few occasions, but take nothing away from the Papua New Guinea boys – they were outstanding and it was a great opportunity for us to play against them and play at this amazing venue.
“I’m really proud of the way our boys have conducted themselves and it’s an experience they will never forget.”