Almanac Rugby League – Race for the Paul Barriere: Week 5, Australia set to defend titles, England edge Tonga in classic



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. Australia will feature in both the men’s and women’s finals after wins in Brisbane and Sydney respectively on semi-final weekend. The Kiwi Ferns play the Jillaroos in the first game of the Saturday double-header in Brisbane before the Kangaroos face England in game two.


Saturday in Auckland gave us not just an instant World Cup classic but an instant classic game of rugby league as Tonga rallied from 20-0 down to score three times in the final eight minutes before a fourth try came close to materialising only for Andrew Fifita’s grasp on the ball to be dislodged by Elliott Whitehead – one of two Canberra Raiders players in the English team. England clung on 20-18. This result came after a comprehensive 54-6 win for the Kangaroos on Friday night against Fiji in the opening semi-final. The tournament for the men will finish as it started with Australia playing England, but this time in Brisbane.


Whilst plenty of plaudits rightly went to Kangaroos flyer Valentine Holmes, who now has 11 tries in the knockout phase of the tournament, Australian forward Reagan Campbell-Gillard entered proceedings at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane earlier than anticipated and was one of the standouts. Coming on due to Aaron Woods’ injury the Penrith forward didn’t disappoint in a near man of the match effort. Campbell-Gillard’s 15 runs for 171 metres was the most of any forward for the Kangaroos and for a 46-minute stint was hugely impressive. Eligible to play for Fiji ‘RCG’ will play a key role in Saturday’s final.


Speaking about injuries, with Raiders rake Josh Hodgson set to be missing for England in the final (plus a substantial part of next year for Canberra) coach Wayne Bennett will be forced into a reshuffle in the key number nine role. Probable replacement James Roby missed only one tackle of the 39 he attempted when he came off the bench so England won’t lose much their but Australia will look to go around England with Holmes in form and they will try to kick to the corners as they did against Fiji.


In what was the first occasion the two nations had meet in a senior international another record was set as on Saturday when England played Tonga as England’s Jermaine McGillvary notched a try for the tenth test match in a row. In the first game of the tournament which finished 18-4 the Huddersfield back opened the scoring and it was only a late Josh Dugan four-pointer which sealed the win for Mal Meninga’s side.If England can keep Australia to scoring only two/three tries they have the ability to cause and upset but a high scoring game favours Australia.


The gulf in class was evident on Sunday in Sydney as the defending champion Jillaroos plus three-time winners New Zealand each hung 50 plus points on their semi-final opponents at Southern Cross Group Stadium in the women’s tournament. The Kiwi Ferns stuttered to a 14-4 lead at the interval before running in seven second-half tries to beat England 52-4. The Lionesses failed to capitalize on New Zealand’s errors (13) with only one player, interchange forward Emma Slowe, coming close to running for over 100 metres, she ran 94 metres from 12 runs. Brad Donald’s Australian side restored their preferred starting halves combination of Caitlin Moran and Ali Brigginshaw for their semi-final (but also ran playmaker Maddie Studdon off the bench) and they played with freedom as they ran in 11 tries to the Ravens one and win 58-6. In the 2013 World Cup final Australia prevailed 22-12 beating New Zealand in Leeds and another close contest seems likely.


This rugby league 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.


  1. Kia Ora Hamish.

    How fortuitous to see Australia V England coinciding with the Ashes. Hopefully the Brisbane result mirrors the cricket test match,with an enthralling contest, ending with the Australians having a clear cut victory.

    Tonga’s second halves were great to watch. Firstly their big fight back and win over New Zealand, then a sterling performance over England.

    No matter how long i’ve watched Rugby i’ve found it hard to be excited, but i’ve enjoyed this World Cup. Particular pleasure has been obtained watching Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea.

    I’m looking forward to the next World Cup, when ever/where ever it’s going to be.


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