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A HEARTY effort from the PNG Kundus has given great hope for the country?s international future, despite a deceiving 32-16 loss against the Queensland Under 19 Maroons.
A mix of Under 21 players living at home and in Australia, the Kundus trailed only 20-16 until the final 10 minutes of the match at Suncorp Stadium.
Indeed, a well-drilled side under coaches Chris Anara and Bob Bennett gave good reason for Kumuls fans to be optimistic, with the technical efficiency and fitness of the side matching the renowned PNG courage.
PNG actually scored first in the 3rd minute, via former Redcliffe Dolphins half Wayne Bond. Now with Penrith, Bond received a gift four points when a dropped ball literally landed in his hands underneath the goalposts.
The Under 19 Maroons were finding the going tough, despite having several players with QLD Wizard Cup experience in their ranks.
A few lifting tackles by the PNG boys perhaps had the home side nervous and backrower Liam Capewell spilled what seemed a certain try in the 18th minute. The Kundus committed a similar error at the end of the paddock, winger Dion Aiye fumbling when left wide open.
Queensland finally made it on to the board 25 minutes in, as half Matt Smith trotted through on the fringes for a 6-all score. The breakthrough triggered a sense of confidence and prop Greg Byrnes almost scored a spectacular effort, rampaging over 30m before losing the ball just short of the line.
Capewell then made amends for his earlier missed opportunity, sliding in beside the corner post and putting Queensland up 10-6 at halftime.
A late inclusion in the Maroons side, rangy Sunshine Coast Falcons utility Paul Ivan worked his way into the game and proved a handful out wide for the Kundus.
After being bundled into touch over the tryline, he came back with another attacking raid to start the second half scoring. Extending one hand through a two-man tackle, he planted the ball in jubilation as the Maroons moved to 14-6.
Bursting through from short range, playmaker Smith completed a double in the 48th minute and it looked as though the floodgates may open at 20-6.
Yet showing stern resolve, the Kundus punched back with effect. Talented five-eighth Keith Peters and backrower Nathan Daly both crossed in a six-minute period to bring the gap back to just four points.
With an unmissable first name, PNG replacement J Latumahina also caught the eye with his on-field play.
Latumahina met the ball wonderfully with his foot, sending a kick restart into the stratosphere and providing a similar strike from out wide on a conversion attempt.
Unfortunately for J he didn?t quite have the legs to make it past a flying Marty Paulson in the 56th minute. Paulson chased down Latumahina in a gripping long-range foot race to the tryline that brought the loudest cheer of the game from the Brisbane crowd.
Had karma been in effect, Paulson should have been awarded with a try for his brilliant defence, but instead he potted two conversions for late tries to David Tyrrell and Rohan Ahern.
Tyrrell?s scything run over 25m was the play that sealed the game, blowing out the final scoreline in a willing contest.
QUEENSLAND U19 MAROONS 32 (Matt Smith 2, Rohan Ahern, David Tyrrell, Paul Ivan, Liam Capewell tries; Marty Paulson 3, Brent Kuskey goals) d PNG KUNDUS 16 (Wayne Bond, Nathan Daly, Keith Peters tries; Jonno Coombs, Joe Bond goal) at Suncorp Stadium.