Centre Thompson Teteh posted his side’s first four-pointer but Noel Zeming missed the conversion for the home side to get out to a 4-0 lead in slippery conditions at Kalabond Oval.
The Hunters struck again not long after backrower Kato Ottio ran onto a short ball from halfback Ate Bina Wabo.
Zeming’s radar was on target this time and the score was 10-0 and the local fans were buoyant.
Handling errors saw the match lose its rhythm as both sides struggled to hold on to the pill.
The Cutters finally got on the scoreboard through reserve forward Josh Chudleigh.
Cutters halfback Liam Taylor made no mistake with conversion and the margin was cut down to four (10-6) in the 22nd minute.
Michael Marum’s men started to control the ball better from the 31st minute and that resulted in two tries before the break.
Hunters captain Israel Eliab helped himself over the line in the 36th minute and hooker Wartovo Puara Jr scored just before the halftime siren for a 20-6 lead at the break.
The opening minutes of the first half saw some weak defence from both sides and when the Hunters ended up with good field position in the Cutters red zone, Eliab scored his second of the day to push the lead to 26-6.
But that Eliab try marked a turning point in the match as the visitors started to lift their game.
Consecutive errors by Hunters saw Cutters fullback Sam Clune cross, with Taylor adding the extras and the score was 26-12 mid-way through the second half.
The Hunters game deteriorated in the last 15 minutes of the game as fatigue caught up and handling errors piled up.
The Mackay side got on the board again when Chudleigh bagged his second under the uprights. The score was 26-18 with the fading Hunters struggling to finish the match on their feet. Taylor scored a try in the 72nd minute to set the game up for a grand stand finish with the scores at 26-24, but like a desperate boxer in the final round, the Hunters managed to tie up the Cutters and nullify their attack until the final whistle.
Summary: PNG Hunters 26 ( Thompson Teteh, Kato Ottio, Israel Eliab 2, Wartovo Puara tries; Noel Zeming 3 goals) MacKay Cutters 24 ( Josh Chudleigh 2, Sam Clune, Liam Taylor tries; Taylor 4 goals). The National