Amean, who missed last week’s victory over the Northern Pride, had to be content with a wing spot after Bland Abavu was given a second run in the No.1 jersey.
But the 26-year-old earned the man-of-the-match honours with a great last quarter effort that dragged the Hunters over the line against a spirited Central Queensland outfit.
The match in slightly wet and overcast conditions was largely a frustrating one for the SP Brewery-sponsored home team who failed to convert several try-scoring opportunities simply because they did not respect the ball enough.
The competition leaders found it tough going up against the 12th-placed Capras who mirrored the style of the last three teams to play the Hunters – with a grinding effort and a refusal to be bullied in the ruck.
Hunters coach Michael Marum said post match that he knew the Capras would play with intent and was relieved his side had pulled away in the final quarter after a frustrating first 60 minutes.
“We understood it was going to be a tough game today, the Capras are always tough when you play them at home or away and we expected that sort of game,” Marum said at the post match presser.
“The positive thing was that we hang in there until the last 10 to 15 minutes where we scored three tries.
“I think we defended well even though there were a lot of handling errors by both sides which was probably due to the weather. But that’s football and it’s something we have to work on.”
With the Hunters error count almost costing them the victory, Marum stressed that it would be an area he would continuously emphasise during the week.
Despite maintaining the top spot on the ladder, the Hunters’ flaws will surely be better exploited by a top-five side: Marum’s men have had to grind out wins over the 6th-placed Magpies (12-8) and 13th-placed Pride (18-10) while losing 14-10 to the wooden spoon favourites (in round 15) over the last three weeks.
Needless to say the 20-point winning margin over the Capras flattered to deceive.
Hunters have another home game next Sunday against the 11th-placed Burleigh Bears — the defending premiers — and can expect another willing opponent keen to knock them off their perch.
“We have one more game before we go for a break. We can’t switch off when we turn up on Monday as we prepare for another tough one against Bears.
“The defending champions have been playing well for the past three weeks and will be keen to pay us back for beating them back in round 8 (42-6),” Marum said
Capras coach Kim Williams credited his players for staying in the contest for the majority of the contest.
“We were under no illusions about how hard it was going to be came over here and getting a win. But we took some confidence from seeing Tweed Heads come up here a couple of weeks ago and getting a tough victory,” Williams said.
“For the score to blow out to 30-10 was disappointing for us. It wasn’t a fair reflection of what was a tough and close contest.
“We were right in the game. There were a couple of big moments but we struggled late in the late second half, and that’s the difference between the top six and where we are now.
“You have to get through the arm-wrestle and come out on top,” Williams said.
Centres Israel Eliab and Willie Minoga, who each scored a try, impressed on the edges while forwards David Loko, returning from illness, Nixon Put and Radley Brawa played big minutes.
The Hunters (28) are two-points clear on the top of the ladder after the Sunshine Coast Falcons (25) were pipped 17-16 by the Easts Tigers last Saturday.
Thompson Teteh’s Redcliffe Dolphins (26) moved into second place with a 32-16 win over the Bears yesterday.
PNG Hunters 30 (Willie Minoga, Israel Eliab, Stargroth Amean 3 tries; Ase Boas 5 con) CQ Capras 10 (Ken Tofilau, Victory Halfpenny tries; Krys Freeman con)
Round 17 results: Sat, July 1 – Jets 40 TH Seagulls 14, Tigers 17 Falcons 16, WM Seagulls 16 Magpies 22; Sun, July 2 – Pride 18 Cutters 26, Bears 16 Dolphins 32, SP Hunters 30 CQ Capras 10, Blackhawks 12 Devils 6.