THE Southern Highlands Mendi Menjals threw a spanner in the works when they took centre stage in winning the MRDC Papua New Guinea Sevens Cup and K20,000 prize-money. The Menjals, filtered with SP Cup rugby league Mendi Muruks players, sent the visiting St Joeys Old Boys of Sydney packing with a 35-17 belting in the Cup final at the Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby yesterday. Both sides — participating as invited teams — sent worrying signals to the rugby hierarchy with their Cup final appearance.
Both sides were, however, deserved finalists after putting on breathtaking performances to brush off New Guinea Islands sides Kavieng and Manus in the Cup semi-finals. The Joeys Old Boys led by Kori Chan, Daniel Lewinski, John Bowman, Tom Freeman and their Port Moresby ring-ins Dominic Livuana, Adeck Naio, Deakan Degoba, Karo Kauna and Lawrence Acanufa were the surprise package. The performance of rising stars in Livuana and Naio begs the question of their omission in the city side. In weekend of surprises traditional top fancies Goroka Kilituas didn’t fire but managed to win the Bowl over Kimbe 45-33, Lae bombed out altogether and Port Moresby could only manage the Plate. Port Moresby beat a determined Alois King Mad Gauns 26-5.
The Menjals were the toast of the two-day rugby spectacular with their evasive rugby, speed and uncanny ability to score tries from anywhere. Skipper Alex Haija and Mendi Muruks star forward Joseph Omai were the only two with rugby playing background . . . but made up for that with their innovative style that crumbled the best of sides. Despite the St Joeys Old Boys opening up with the first try to the stocky Lewinski the latter opened the flood-gates through PNG President’s 13 representatives Wesley Benny, Andy Andrew and Sova Wilfred to lead 15-5 at half-time. The second-half saw no let-up from the Menjals as they toyed with their opponents to score through Haija, Benny and Andrew for their second and the last to George Moni.
Despite two late tries from St Joeys the Southern Highlanders were too strong to hold out for the rousing win. Highlights of the weekend were the exploits of Pukpuk wingers Richard Mark playing for Kavieng and Gina Ponda for Kimbe. Other new stars that shone were Port Moresby utility Emmanuel Auro, Manus flyer David Eri and Kavieng’s Consi Lumaris. The major upset of the weekend was Manus nailing Port Moresby 31-12 on day one. Other centres that took part were Oro, Alotau, Daru, Autonomous Region of Bougainville and invited sides from Tabubil, Kerema and Central. MRDC managing director Francis Kaupa announced that this would be the last national sevens tournament they would sponsor . . . completing a six-year commitment.