IT says much about how rapidly the Barrow Raiders fans have taken their new Papua New Guinean trio to heart even before lacing up a boot in anger that a huge national flag of the country was draped over the wall of Craven Park’s Duke Street terrace prior to kick-off yesterday.

The pre-season clash at home to Whitehaven saw the club’s faithful get their first glimpses of Stargroth Amean, Wartovo Puara Jr and Willie Minoga in action.

Indeed, their first appearances for the Raiders had been hotly anticipated and the buzz in the air could be felt when Minoga – nicknamed ‘The Freight Train’ – went charging headlong into the Whitehaven defence with the first carry of the game.

Eighty minutes later, they were celebrating after helping their new side claim the bragging rights over their Cumbrian rivals and get their first win of pre-season under their belt as Barrow emerged 24-8 winners.

Such was the impact of hooker Puara, who ended up playing around 55 minutes straight off the bat before returning in the closing stages, that he was named as the sponsors’ man of the match.

Amean showed his versatility too by playing at both full-back and on the wing, but unfortunately his afternoon was curtailed eight minutes into the second half after suffering a suspected rib injury.

Yet while it was a day to welcome some newcomers to the club, it was also a homecoming of sorts for two of Haven’s squad in ex-Raiders Matty While and Ruairi McGoff.

McGoff in particular was involved in a storming one-on-one battle with Tom Walker throughout the match, with Walker at one point giving him a kiss on the head after executing a big tackle.

That underlined Barrow’s initial approach, which was to take Whitehaven on up the middle, and after going close twice the breakthrough came on 19 minutes when Puara passed inside for Jordan Walne to crash over for a try converted by Jamie Dallimore.

Haven, who lost their own Papua New Guinea star Dion Aiye to a leg injury early on, benefitted when Barrow knocked on from the restart though, with Sam Forrester’s grubber kick bouncing kindly for the full-back to dot down for a try after some patient build-up play.

Two grubbers led to Barrow scoring twice before half time though; the first when influential half-back Lewis Charnock – who converted both tries – chased down his own on the last tackle to score, followed by Deon Cross sprinting onto the end of rookie Jake Carter’s stab-through.

Then three minutes after the restart, Charnock broke and passed inside for Tee Ritson to race in from 30 metres for his first Barrow try, which was converted.

Andre Bulman did manage a second unconverted try for Haven with 15 minutes to go, but there was no way back for the visitors – even after Ryan Duffy was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Callum Philips.

Barrow Raiders: Stargroth Amean; Tee Ritson, Declan Hulme, Deon Cross, Tom Loxam; Jamie Dallimore, Charnock; Walker, Puara, Minoga, Jono Smith, Bradd Crellin, Martin Aspinwall. Interchange: Jake Carter, Ryan Duffy, Glenn Riley, Jordan Walne, Adam Ford, Charlie Emslie.

Whitehaven: Sam Forrester; Andre Bulman, Jason Mossop, Dave Thompson, Jordan Burns; Dion Aiye, Callum Philips; Matty While, James Newton, Ruairi McGoff, Tom Wilkinson, Conner Harper, Lewis Brown. Interchange: Jake Bradley, Rhys Burr, Jordan Thompson, Chris Taylor.

Referee: Gareth Hewer.

Sin-bin: Barrow Raiders – Ryan Duffy (high tackle, 77).

Playback: 19 – Walne try, Dallimore conv (6-0); 22 – Forrester try (6-4); 30 – Charnock try and conv (12-4); 32 – Cross try, Charnock conv (18-4); 43 – Ritson try, Charnock conv (24-4); 65 – Bulman try (24-8).