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How to stop the Hunters

By Tony Webeck /  qrl.com.au

Take a look at the ladder at the halfway mark of the season and you’ll see that the PNG Hunters are sitting pretty at the very top.

Take a look at the draw for the second half of the season and you’ll soon realise that it is going to take something rather extraordinary to displace them.

Starting this weekend against Souths Logan, the Hunters play five of their next six games at the National Football Stadium in Port Moresby, a venue in which they have only suffered two defeats since it opened last year, an 18-12 loss to Sunshine Coast in Week 1 of the finals.

The only team to enjoy success against the Hunters at their home this year are the Norths Devils and coach Mark Gliddon said it was some advice from Brisbane Broncos scout Brian 'Pinky' Edwards that got them on the front foot.

"I rang 'Pinky' before we went over though and asked his thoughts and he said, ‘silence the crowd’," said Gliddon of Norths' 32-18 win earlier this year.

“I said, 'How do you do that?' and he said, ‘if you're scoring tries, the crowd ain't saying anything.’

“It's a bit of a gimmick, but we used it and that was what we said to each other, ‘Silence the crowd’. If you can silence the crowd it means that you're in front.

“I'll be very surprised if anyone else beats them over there. I could be wrong, but they're very hard to beat over there.”

They've also proven difficult to beat in Queensland this season, with the Falcons the only other team to have gotten the better of them this year with a 38-14 win at Sunshine Coast Stadium in Round 6.

The Hunters have had wins in Rockhampton, Brisbane, Mackay, Ipswich and Burleigh to cement themselves as the competition front-runners, but Gliddon by no means believes they are unbeatable.

Level at 12-12 at half-time last Sunday, the Hunters scored two tries in the first five minutes of the second half in their game against the Devils at Bishop Park to take control of a game that could very easily have panned out differently.

“We dropped the ball twice over the line in the first half and both times it was because of their heavy defence. They certainly don't take any prisoners,” Gliddon said.

“What we did [in Round 4] – and we tried to do it again on the weekend – is to slow the game down a little bit. Any points on offer you take, you kick for touch rather than keep the ball in play and you walk to scrums because they're massive counter-attackers and from scrums your defence is set.

"I also think they've got some real deficiencies on their short sides. They don't move up on their short sides and I feel that's how we got them the first time.

“They're beatable in certain areas, but having a full-time roster that trains, eats, drinks, sleeps rugby league is a massive advantage over everyone else.”

Did you know?

The Hunters v Magpies match on Sunday will mark the 3000th game in the history of the Intrust Super Cup and will be a meeting of two of the form teams of the competition. The Hunters have won their past six games on the trot and Souths Logan their past four to sit first and fourth on the ladder respectively.

A former editor of Big League, Tony Webeck is the Chief Queensland Correspondent for NRL.com.
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