Sepik FC registered their first National Soccer League points after upsetting big-spending CMSS Tigers Rapatona 1-0 in the third round of the competition at the Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby on Saturday.
The determined Sepik side displayed fighting spirit in attack and defence – qualities lacking in many franchises early in the competition – and were justly rewarded with the only goal of the match.
The Sepik and Rapatona match was the main fixture of a double-header played in Port Moresby.
In the early match, a gallant MACL Nabasa went down fighting against Eastern Star 3-2. At the Lae Football Academy (LFA) Oval, Welgris Highlanders held Gigira Laitepo Morobe to a 1-1 draw.
The Sepik and Rapatona match went down to the wire.
The Sepiks rose to the occasion and full credit for their victory must go to their 19-year-old goalkeeper, Ronald Warisan, who thwarted a number of powerful Rapatona attempts at goal.
Former Port Moresby PS Rutz players Leslie Jakis, Max Mende and Chris Steven also played major roles in the Sepiks’ defence and offensive play.
Jakis was a tower of strength in the backline, leading the relatively inexperienced Clarence Hukahu, Lazarus Nara and Mende to block Rapatona’s attacking force of Richard Auram, Paul Komboi and Barnabas Mosebua.
In the midfield, Otto Nanguromo, Rudolf Kasuka and Robert Karo contributed their share of work to give strikers Terence Bandi and Steven Mauri opportunities at goal.
In one such combined move resulting from a corner kick, Bandi scored the opening goal which emerged as the winning goal.
Rapatona also had several opportunities but the Sepik defence were quickly up against them, forcing their strikers to lose possession of the ball.
Rapatona’s defenders in Russell Inai, Trevor Ire, Richard Pono and Tarcissius Giringo managed to close all gaps after the Sepik first goal and successfully denied any further possibilities.
Sepik coach Derrick Maira said after the match that the victory was a breakthrough for his unknown Sepik talent.
“We have a couple of PS Rutz boys but I must commend and encourage my local boys from the Wewak competition that they can match the city boys,” he said.
Maira, from Morobe, but a long-time Wewak town resident, said the victory showed that his team will be very competitive at the NSL level.
“We are not there to make up the numbers,” he warned.
Rapatona’s loss means they have a lot of work to do despite being heavily backed by a South Korean company.