Almanac (International) Rugby League: A day of passion!

 

 

 

They play rugby league in the Pacific nations with a level of passion you have to see to believe, and all the evidence was there to be seen on Saturday in the four international matches played as part of Representative Round. Yes, the results were important but the pride in representing their countries was what really stirred these warriors.

 

Kiwi Ferns v Mate Ma’a Tonga

The three year break since rugby league was last played at Mt Smart Stadium seemed to energise both the players and the crowd as the day kicked off with this women’s clash. The ground was a riot of colour, noise and enthusiasm.

 

On the field, the Ferns attacked from the very start and maintained a high level of dominance throughout the game to run out 50-12 winners. Eleven tries to two tells the tale of a relentless force that simply overwhelmed the brave but outclassed Tongan women. But perhaps the play of the day belonged to Tonga’s diminutive Haylee Hifo when she followed through to catch a bomb on the run before skipping away to score a great try which she then converted.

 

The Fearns had nine different try scorers but, for me, their standout player was the vastly experienced Georgia Hale who racked up 194 metres gained and 28 tackles in a great all-round effort. Tongan hooker Shirley Mailangi got through a game high 30 tackles in just fifty minutes on the park.

 

To read Martin Lenehan’s detailed report of the game for nrl.com click here.

 

New Zealand Kiwis v Mate Ma’a Tonga

The much-anticipated game between the Kiwis and the Mate Ma’a delivered in terms of an impassioned battle between two physically powerful sides but, as a contest on the scoreboard, it was a dominant win for the Kiwis by 26-6. In spite of limited preparation and featuring several debutantes, the New Zealanders quickly settled into a cohesive force and controlled the game from start to finish.

 

While the Kiwi forwards hunted as a pack in both attack and defence, the Tongans looked comparatively one-out and lacking in structure. Jahrome Hughes guided his team around the park with vision and skill while Jordan Rapana injected himself into the game whenever he could to finish with over 200 metres gained, a try and four goals.

 

But it was fullback Joseph Manu who stole the show with an electrifying performance from fullback. He terrorised the Tongan defence with both structured and ad lib play every time he handled the ball. Different reports had Manu gaining somewhere between 350-400 metres for the match. To read an appreciation of Manu’s performance by the nrl.com‘s Corey Rosser click here.

 

The rain came midway through the first half after the Kiwis went to a 20-6 lead and, after that, the game fell away as a spectacle with poor handling and a scrappy look overall. The intensity remained but there was only ever going to be one winner. The Tongans hung in stoically but battled to get out of their own half.

 

To read Martin Lenehan’s detailed match report for nrl.com click here.

 

Samoa v Cook Islands

Samoa were impressive in their strong 42-12 win over comparative minnows Cook Islands, suggesting that the men in blue may well be a force at the World Cup later in the year. With plenty of NRL experience on board, Samoa went to the break with a 20-0 lead and added a further four tries in the second half while Cook Islands managed two tries midway through the second half to add some respectability to the final scoreline.

 

David Nofoaluma was the standout performer with four tries to his credit but it was debutant John Schuster who set up the best of the attacking play. Youngsters Izack Tago, Taylan May and Charlie Staines also made strong starts to their international careers.

 

Cook Islands, overrun early on, were enthusiastic and had a good patch of play in the second half but, in the end, class, skill and cohesion won out.

 

To read a detailed report of the match by nrl.com‘s Alicia Newtown click here.

 

PNG Kumuls v Fiji Bati

The closest contest of the day was saved for the final game between the Kumuls and the Bati. Played in attacking style at a frantic pace, it was Fiji who broke through first before PNG fought back to lead 12-6 at the break. Fiji responded strongly but couldn’t take advantage of their temporary dominance, allowing the Kumuls to break away and seal the match with just under 10 minutes to play.

 

Lachlan Lam was the standout for PNG while Justin Olam’s experience was invaluable. Veteran David Mead scored a try in his farewell appearance for his country to go out in a fairytale finish. Fiji’s outstanding player was their fullback Sunia Turuva who shone in both attack and defence.

 

Both teams will take a lot of positives out of this game ahead of the World Cup.

 

To read a detailed report of the match be nrl.com‘s Martin Lenehan click here.

 

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Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A Queenslander through and through, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. I enjoy travel, good coffee and cake, reading, and have been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. As well as being one of Footy Almanac's online editors, I moonlight as an editor for hire - check me out at www.writerightediting.com.au

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