A "strong word" at half-time has inspired the Papua New Guinea Hunters to their Intrust Super Cup rugby league title after a try at the death completed a dramatic 12-10 comeback victory over Sunshine Coast Falcons at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday.
The Hunters were on the back-foot early with Falcons winger Matthew Soper-Lawler and backrower Joe Stimson scoring early to open up a 10-0 lead inside seven minutes, which they held until half-time.
The Hunters hit back two minutes into the second spell, Watson Boas capitalising on a spilt ball to score with brother Ase Boas converting to cut the deficit to four points.
The Sunshine Coast defence held firm until the 78th minute when captain and Queensland Cup player of the season Ase Boas conjured up the championship-winning play, putting a grubber kick behind the Falcons defence for Willie Minoga to level the scores at 10-all.
Boas converted from right in front to clinch the match, title and history for Michael Marum's team in front of a record crowd of more than 11,000.
"We hung in there for the first half to get away from the surprise in the first ten minutes," he said.
"We had a good talk at half-time and went back out there and just sticked to our game - I think our defence got us through there so full credit to the side."
Marum, who has coached the Hunters since their inception in 2014, admitted to a few choice words to his players at the interval.
"I had a bit of a strong word to them during my half-time team talk but basically I was impressed with the way they defended all throughout that (final) 30 minutes in the first half," he said.
"I just reminded them of how important this game was to everyone in the country and we hung in there and kept defending and finally got the final try and converted it to win the game."
Sunshine Coast Chair Ashley Robinson admitted it was the game that got away.
"We made a lot of mistakes. I could criticise maybe that first try - I though the guy was offside and I thought it was a knock-on, PNG's first try" he said.
"But in the first hald we had ample opportunity to put some points on. I thought the Hunters were a bit rattled that first 20 minutes and we just kept pushing the passes and we had plenty of opportunities to win the game but in reflection...I cannot praise our guys enough for how brave they were."
Robinson thought the Falcons defence would hold on in the dying seconds but praised the Hunters for delivering with the game on the line.
"It was all or nothing because it's seven tackles if he doesn't get to it and the game's over so well done," he said.
"I don't know, sometimes you think about it but opportunity lost and we may never get that opportunity again, but I guess I'm buoyed by the fact that I love the PNG people and if somebody is going to beat us I'm glad it's them."
The Hunters will fly home today to Port Moresby and Michael Marum is expecting quite the welcome.
"People up there they're going mad now so they're probably waiting at the airport to receive us, welcome us, the team, back home," he said.
"But we understand we have another game in Sydney this weekend so we celebrate the victory today (Sunday) and look forward to that game."
The Hunters will take on the New South Wales Intrust Super Premiership winning Penrith Panthers in the NRL State Championship as part of the NRL Grand Final day.