PORT MORESBY, (POST COURIER) – The Monier Papua New Guinea Pukpuks are in the box seat to claim the 2015 Oceania Rugby Cup.
This was made easier following their more clinical 36-22 win over American Samoa in round two of the tournament at the Sir Hubert Murray Stadium in Port Moresby Wednesday.
In the other clash, Tahiti finally found something to smile about when they beat the Solomon Islands 36-12.
This is the Pukpuks second win and are favoured to overcome the huge Solomon Islands pack on Sunday to claim the Cup.
PNG leads the four-nation challenge with 10 points, followed by American Samoa and Tahiti on five points apiece and the Solomon Islands yet to register a point.
The Pukpuks reigned in six tries to nullify their Polynesian counterpart’s efforts in a dominant display.
Winger Jackie Marcus continues to impress and remind selectors of his sevens potential as well with his third try of the tournament, while skipper Tisa Kautu, Jonah Kautu Jr, Rabbie Namaliu Jr, James Lumaris and Richard Aitsi joined in the try-fest.
American Samoa who romped over the Solomon Islands easily on Saturday were expected to put up a stiffer challenge, and looked to press their resolve when right wing Shaun Salave’a opened the scoring from a 60 metre intercept.
However when Pukpuk full-back Jonah Kautu Jr strolled over for PNG’s first try they seem to rise with the confidence level, which was lacking in round one.
The Pukpuks started to play the game that they know best, somewhat a stark contrast to their stereo-type game plan in 2013, when the Cook Islands spoilt the party.
When the Pukpuks had the opportunity to open up, they did so in style due to the efforts of number 7 Bradley Kelegai and sevens international Butler Morris high work-rate at the breakdowns.
Doubled with young gun Koroseta Vini, Derek Paraka, Richard Gebob and Namaliu making a statement, the new era for the Pukpuks engine room has just turned a corner.
PNG Pukpuks coach Sydney Wesley was happy more than anything else for the players to come through unscathed.
“We are taking small steps to restore respectability and while the win is encouraging, we still have one more hurdle on Sunday,” he added.
On the game itself, Wesley said the players basically rose to the challenge and with confidence growing the Pukpuks have yet to play to their best yet.
Other try-scorers for American Samoa were full-back Jeremy Sefuiva and replacement hooker Isaia Taylor.
On Sunday, Tahiti will play American Samoa in what is expected to be a feisty encounter at 1pm and PNG against the Solomon Islands at 3pm.