Almanac Rugby League – Pacific Championships Week 3: The one we’ve been waiting for (sort of)

 

For general use

 

 

It was a weekend of contrasting results in Week 2 of the 2023 Pacific Championships. The Kiwis were devastating in their 50-0 demolition of Toa Samoa with Jamayne Isaako continuing his great NRL form as he contributed a brace of tries and seven conversions. Cook Islands Aitu threatened a boiler before Fiji Bati got home through a late try to Sunia Turuva. In the women’s competition the Ferns were far too good for Mate Ma’a Tonga, running away to a 28-10 victory. Cook Islands Moana put up a very good effort before going down to PNG Orchids 28-20. Meanwhile, half a world away, England defeated Mate Ma’a Tonga 22-18 in the First Test of their three match series. Tonga controlled a lot of the game but England seized the key moments to come out on top. To read commentary on that match click here.

 

This weekend sees the Australia v New Zealand match-ups in both the men’s and women’s competitions at Melbourne’s AAMI Park while in the other match on Saturday afternoon, PNG Kumuls will host Fiji Bati in Port Moresby.

 

Jillaroos v Ferns

Two weeks after the Jillaroos defeated the Ferns 16-10 in Townsville, they front up to each other again, this time at AAMI Park, Melbourne. Last weekend the Ferns posted a strong 28-10 result against Mate Ma’a Tonga and will be keen to test the Australians once again.

 

The Jillaroos will have the advantage of a week’s rest while the Ferns will hope that they’ve found their combinations to be a legitimate challenger. Fatigue? Perhaps, but there’s nothing like a Trans-Tasman stoush to bring out the best in everyone. On paper the Australians appear to have more depth, especially off the bench where the likes of Tonegato, Clydesdale and Cherrington lurk. But I think it will be in the backs that Australia will find a winning edge after their pack at least holds, if not controls, their Kiwi counterparts.

 

The battle of the halfbacks, Brigginshaw and McGregor, and the fullbacks, Upton and Nicholls, will be worth the price of admission. Then watch Sergis and Kelly try to contain Mele Hufanga!

 

The game kick off at 6.00pm AEDT with Belinda Sharpe blowing the whistle.

 

Kangaroos v Kiwis

I can only suggest that their re-match in next week’s ‘final’ of the Championships is the reason for the Kangaroos to field a somewhat below strength team when they meet the Kiwis at AAMI Park on Saturday night. No Haas, no Martin, no Fa’asuamaleaui – half the first choice starting pack! And two utilities on the bench. Is Big Mal playing ‘everyone gets a turn’? That’s not to say that the likes of Flegler, Cotter, Hynes and Holmes don’t deserve to play. It’s just that they’re probably not in the best 17 at this point in time.

 

There’s no such approach from the Kiwis who have named their top team. Expect them to do their utmost to play hard and strong through the middle where the likes of Fisher-Harris, Leota and Tapine will try to dominate and bend the line. Then look for Hughes, Brown, Manu and Isaako to make hay like they did last weekend against Toa Samoa.

 

The Kangaroos will look to experienced men such as Trbojevic, Yeo, Murray and Hunt to hold it together up front  to allow DCE and Munster to give their speedy and elusive backs time and space to create their own menace.  I’m expecting big games from Hunt, DCE and Tedesco – this is the type of challenge they relish. Let’s put it this way, there’ll be no excuses for the Kiwis if they can’t win this one.

 

The game begins at 8.10pm AEDT with Adam Gee refereeing.

 

Kumuls v Bati

Port Moresby takes centre stage on Sunday afternoon for the Kumuls v Bati clash. The stadium should be heaving for what I think will be a very entertaining game.

 

The Kumuls have had a week off since downing the Cook Islands convincingly; the Bati got home late against the same opposition last weekend. On that form, PNG will start warm favourites; plus they’ll have the backing of a hugely partisan crowd. What a pity Justin Olam is injured – imagine the roars each time he launched into one of his fearless surges!

 

But even without Olam, I think PNG has the grunt up front (Kapinias, Ipape, De Belin) and the zip-zap in their backline (AJ, Laybutt, Lam and Macdonald) to get home comfortably. Fiji will hope to get the best out of their talented backs (Sivo, Turuva, Blake and Ravalawa) to build on what should be strong work by the likes of Kamikamica, Milne and Navale.

 

This one starts at 4.00pm AEDT with Chris Butler officiating.

 

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About Ian Hauser

A relaxed, Noosa-based retiree with a (very) modest sporting CV. A loyal Queenslander, especially when it comes to cricket and rugby league. Enjoys travel, coffee and cake, reading, and has been known to appreciate a glass or three of wine. One of Footy Almanac's online editors who enjoys the occasional editing opportunity to assist aspiring writers.

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