The 36-16 win belied a closely contested match which fittingly saw a 10-10 halftime score but neither coach would have been happy about the poor completion rates as both sets of players coughed up possession regularly.
But as has been the case for Michael Marum’s men since their debut last year, their Jekyll-and-Hyde performance came good in the end through a concerted effort in the second 40, which saw the fans at Kalabond Oval finally get their money’s worth with the home side turning on the razzle-dazzle to leave the defending premiers in their wake. Hooker Wartovo Puara opened the scoring board in the opening 5 minutes with a darting effort close to the uprights but centre Noel Zeming hooked the conversion for a 4-0 lead.
A combination of poor handling and aggressive defence from both sides ensured a lackluster period of play over the next 15 minutes as the game settled into a worrying pattern as the Hunters and their opposition exchanged mistakes.
Pride winger Luke George scored an unconverted try in the 21st minute as the Q-Cup and national champions got back on level pegging.
With 10 minutes remaining on the clock before halftime, Puara put captain Israel Eliab into a hole and the Hunters captain found a supporting Zeming, who scored in the corner.
Zeming made amends for his elementary miss earlier on with a goal to extend the lead to 10-4.
But the Pride hit back just before the halftime siren, with George bagging his second try and Javid Bowen slotting the extras to bring the match back on an even keel.
In the second half, the Hunters were first to score after a line break by winger Adex Wera at halfway ended with halfback Ase Boas picking up a wobbly pass to score near the uprights.
Zeming zeroed in with the boot for a 16-10 lead.
The Hunters ramped up the intensity with Boas, who justified Marum’s faith in him with a solid all-round effort in the No.7 jersey, putting a steaming Willie Minoga over the line.
Zeming added the extras and the score was 22-10.
Wera picked up a four-pointer of his own after latching onto a cut-out pass from Boas to score an unconverted try in the corner as the Hunters, 26-10 in front, took control of the proceedings.
The Pride’s Patrick Kaufusi gave his side a glimmer of hope, with a try in the 65th minute to reduce the deficit to 10 points at 26-16.
But this only flamed the Hunters to finish off the game in style as the SP-sponsored side made sure of the result, with tries to backrower Kato Ottio and Wera, benefiting from a another Boas cut-out, rounded off a great finish.
Winger Bland Abavu put the icing on the cake with a sideline conversion to give his side a 20-point win.
Boas, with five try assists, was named man of the match as the Hunters . Hunters 36 (Adex Wera 2, Noel Zeming, Ase Boas, Wartovo Puara, Kato Ottio, Willie Minoga tries; Noel Zeming 3, Bland Abavu goals) Northern Pride 16 (Luke George 2, Patrick Kaufusi tries; Javid Bowen 2 goals) at Kalabond Oval, Kokopo. The National