Lae Snax Tigers and the Mendi Muruks will meet in the much-anticipated blockbuster match of the round in Lae League this Sunday.
The two teams are evenly matched in all facets of the game, even on the points ladder (16 apiece) too. The winner will have one hand on the minor premiership with only one more game to play next weekend.
The Mendi Muruks have greatly improved this season and for the first time in many seasons their lineup is settled.
Only one or two changes are made each game depending on form or injury and that is attributed to rising coach Rodrick Puname, whose preseason tactics included the team pulling a coaster bus in a military like training that raised a lot of eye brows.
After the domination of late 2000s that included their three in a row premiership, the Mendi Muruks regressed while the Snax sponsored Lae Tigers established itself as a powerhouse.
The Muruks now seem to have found their mojo. With new coach Puname at the helm, the Southern Highlands flagship team is getting better.
Puname has assembled a firebrand forward pack that is very experienced in Inter-city games. Julius Yakopa is settled at lock and has been the cornerstone of the Muruks campaign as pack leader. Well supported by Jojo Walames, Warren Glare, Ismael Balkawa, Nelson Yei and Obert Koim Whitey.
While in the backline, fans have been thrilled by fullback Dickson Pipi’s explosive running game and try scoring feats by big wingers Leon Undupie and Bob Tenza. Muruks wants the minor premiership and they will be out in force in Rainy Lae.
While on the other side, Stanley Tepend also has an experienced forward pack at his disposal and an efficient backline. His squad has been the most consistent in the last decade.
Tigers always turn up for a fight and rarely give away games. Whoever the opposition and wherever the venue count Tepend’s men will battle tooth and nails. This weekend at home against the Muruks, they will come out with all guns blazing.
Experienced Campaigners Junior Rop, Roy Kela, Kitron Laka and Rex Yallon will most get the first dig at the Muruks while Fijians Tikoko Noke and Nuabe Kuipa will come from the bench and be looking to tip the scales Tigers way.
Tigers fell short in the grand final last season and only lost one match against a resurgent Port Moresby Vipers in the nation’s capital this season. They looks set to go all the way to their third straight grand final but they must stop the Mendi Muruks first.
Teams have matched up to the Tigers in the middle but momentum of games has swung effectively Tigers way every time Tepend injects Fijian behemoth Tikoko Niko into the fray. Noke is the man to break the game wide open for the Tigers.
The equation is simple for the Mendi Muruks, if they want to beat table topping Snax Tigers and put one hand on the minor premiership, they have to stop the beast Tikoko Noke.