SP Hunters prop Junior Rop scored a hat-trick of tries to help his side earn a 26-12 win over the Kaiviti Silktails and claim the inaugural Melanesian Bowl at Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka, Fiji, on Saturday.
Rop put in an assured performance in the club’s second preseason fixture in as many weeks after a poor display in last week’s 20-12 loss to the visiting Central Queensland Capras.
In that match at the Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby, Rop’s ball handling was an issue with the rugged ball carrier guilty of several unforced errors in dry conditions but the 28-year-old enforcer muscled his way over the Kaiviti line thrice in an 11-minute period (56th, 59th and 67th minutes) of the second half of a match played in wet and slippery conditions.
The Hunters trailed 4-12 at halftime but came back strongly in the second dig scoring 22 unanswered points.
Rop along with front-rowers Epel Kapinias, Tommy Moide and Henry Wan will be vying for spots in coach Stanley Tepend’s prop rotation for the 2023 Hostplus Cup season and the Jiwaka native’s turn of form could not have come at a better time with the Hunters final squad to be announced this week ahead of the Round 1 fixture against the Western Clydesdales in Toowoomba on Sunday.
Hunters winger Siki Konden scored the first try of the fixture in the 15th minute. However the hosts struck back through winger Tomasi Seru and hooker Naisa Toko to take an eight-point lead at the interval.
Hunters halfback Jamie Mavoko, who failed to convert a goal last week missed the conversion of Rop’s first try but kicked the second conversion which gave Hunters 14-12 lead at the 60th minute.
The hard-running former Lae Tiger completed his treble against a tiring Silktails defensive line. Two Silktails players had to leave the field with cramps but the Hunters maintained their intensity.
Winger Brandon Nima bagged the Hunters’ fifth four-pointer in the final minute which came off a deft Julius Yakopa flick pass.
Kaiviti Silktails 12 (Naisa Toko, Tomasi Seru tries; Seru 2 con) PNG Hunters 26 (Junior Rop 3, Siki Konden, Brandon Nima tries; Jamie Mavako 2 con, Trevor Solu con).
The Nationa/ PNG Hunters
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