Almanac League: Race for the Paul Barriere – Week 3, Tongan history in Hamilton, PNG win again

@hamishneal

 

The Rugby League World Cup is underway in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea with the former, represented by the Kangaroos, searching for an 11th title as they defend the Paul Barriere Trophy they won in 2013 at Old Trafford in Manchester. The quarter final draw was confirmed on Sunday night after England saw off France in Perth and the Women’s edition of this tournament starts in Sydney on Thursday.

 

Australia struggled to half-time leading only 10-0 on Saturday night in Sydney before seeing off Lebanon 34-0 and will face Samoa, who didn’t win a pool game but advance due to the super-pool format after finishing third in pool B, in the first quarter final in Darwin. Australian pivot James Maloney typified the Kangaroos game, and possibly their tournament to date, with a disjointed performance including three errors in the first half. Mal Meninga’s side got some luck on Monday when two incidents from Saturday night involving forwards Aaron Woods and David Klemmer which could have seen either, or both, players sanctioned were deemed unnecessary of further action. Samoan coach Matt Parish will have a struggle to get his side up after an underwhelming tournament. The Pacific Islanders only nabbed a draw in Cairns against Scotland after they were down 14-6 at the break – and Scotland was drastically short-handed having sent three players home earlier in the tournament which came on top of missing three NRL players (Lachlan Coote, Kane Linnett, and Peter Wallace) before the tournament started.

 

Saturday’s first game sees Tonga play Lebanon in Christchurch. The Mate Ma’a are coming off their history-making win in Hamilton when they stormed home to beat New Zealand 28-22 after they were 16-2 down at the break. Kristian Woolf’s side will face a Lebanon side verging on an injury crisis with several key players, including NRL veteran Robbie Farah carrying injuries with varying levels of severity. Despite the defeat to Australia Brad Fittler’s outfit had a good first-up win over France and played well against England. The winner of this contest faces England or Papua New Guinea in the semi-finals.

 

The Darwin quarter final winner (Australia/Samoa) will meet the winner of Saturday’s second semi-final which sees tournament co-hosts New Zealand play Mick Potter’s Fiji. The Bati rounded out their pool play with a 38-10 win over Italy in Canberra with the Kiwis falling the next day to Tonga, the first occasion a tier-two side has beaten a tier-one team since the ‘minnows’ were admitted to the tournament in 1995. (Ironically in that tournament New Zealand only beat Tonga 25-24 when they meet in pool play.) Kiwi coach David Kidwell will hope the game in Wellington will see an improved effort from skipper Adam Blair who had limited impact with only four runs for a paltry 39 metres.

 

Michael Marum’s Papua New Guinea leave Port Moresby for the first time this tournament when they face England in Melbourne on Sunday. Despite their expansive attack they enter the game with having conceded only six points in each game whilst Wayne Bennett’s England have let in 34 points and lost first-up to Australia. The Kumuls have the ability to score from range as evidenced by the fact they were only tackled in the USA’s 20 metre zone nine times but still led 34-0 at the interval – including two brilliant tries to debutant Lachlan Lam, the son of former Kumuls coach Adrian Lam. The Kumuls went on to triumph 64-0 and will meet an England side who comprehensively beat France 34-6 in Perth on Sunday night to conclude the pool phase of the tournament.

 

New Zealand and Canada will kick-off the six-team Women’s Rugby League World Cup on Thursday at the home ground of NRL side Cronulla Sharks with the tournament’s early stages taking place at Southern Cross Group Stadium before the final is played as a double-header with the men’s decider in Brisbane. Hosts Australia won the title for the first time in 2013 and feature a squad made up on New South Wales and Queensland-based players but also featuring one from the Northern Territory with Brisbane-raised Meg Ward, currently based in Katherine with her role in the RAAF, having come to the attention of coach Brad Donald when she was named MVP in the Combined Affiliated States Championships playing for team for the NT Titans. Three-time winners New Zealand, who won the inaugural event in 2000, are in pool B with Canada (who feature two-time Rugby Union World Cup player Andrea Burk) and Papua New Guinea. Pool A features the Australian Jillaroos plus England and first-timers Cook Islands.

 

This RLWC wrap first appeared on From the sideline of sport

 

About Hamish Neal

Born in Lower Hutt New Zealand Hamish is forever wedded to all things All Black, All Whites, Tall Blacks and more. Writing more nowadays in his ‘spare time’ (what is that anyway?) but still with a passion for broadcasting. Has worked in various sports development roles in England, Northern Ireland and Australia.

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