Almanac Rugby League – Pacific Championships Finals: No, it’s not a repeat, just a rematch!

 

For general use

 

You might get a sense of déjà vu when you tune in to the Pacific Championships finals this weekend because it’s a case of a repeat of Week 3’s match-ups. In Pool A the Kiwis are at home to the Kangaroos in Hamilton while in Pool B the Kumuls take on the Bati in Port Moresby. In both cases, this week’s hosts will be out to reverse last weekend’s results.

 

Australia proved too strong in Melbourne by 36-18 despite an attempt by the Kiwis to use their pre-match haka to intimidate the hosts. Good theatre but not much more than that. Six tries to three was a pretty fair indication of the flow of the game. What might worry the Kiwis more is that Australia did not field their strongest team, especially in the pack. In Port Moresby the Bati were far superior to the Kumuls as they ran away to win 43-16 in a surprise result. A Bati party? Can the Kumuls come back from that?

 

In the women’s competition, the Ferns had their first win over the Jillaroos in yonks to square their series. The 12-6 scoreline left aggregate scores even after two clashes. One of the axioms of rugby league is that defence wins matches and this match was a classic example. The overall stats of the match favoured the Australians but a huge defensive effort by New Zealand saw them hang on for a famous win. The Australians didn’t help themselves in one key facet finishing with a dreadful 53% completion rate. You can’t win games with a key stat like that. Well done, Ferns!

 

Meanwhile in the Old Dart, England clinched their series against Tonga with a 14-4 win in the Second Test. The hosts were in control for much of the first half and took a 14-0 lead into the sheds. A better effort from Tonga in the second half reaped only a single try in the face of determined Choom’s defence. The final Test will be played at Headingly on Saturday night (Australian time).

 

Pool A – Kiwis v Kangaroos: Cup Final

The Kiwis will field an unchanged 17 in Hamilton on Saturday afternoon. Coach Maguire will be looking for a lot more from his pack after they were bested by a comparatively second string Aussie set of enforcers last weekend. Joey Manu was also well contained and will be keen to demonstrate that he is indeed one of the code’s premier players. How much would they give to have Shaun Johnson available? The Kangaroos revert to their top hit squad with the return of Haas, Fa’asuamaleaui and Martin in the forwards to accompany Hunt, Murray and Yeo. It looks to be a formidable pack – Jake Trbojevic can’t even crack the reserves bench!

 

The key difference this weekend, however, is the match location. The Kiwis will get a real boost playing in front of their home fans and that may well be worth a few points. Can the Kangaroos take the crowd out of the equation with early points? Can Tedesco retain his unblemished record as captain? Or are we due for one of those periodic Kiwi upsets that keep us wanting more?

 

Australia are favourites at $1.25 while New Zealand have been marked at $4.00, probably about right given last weekend’s result. But don’t be fooled. It’ll be much tighter than that but I’ll stick with the Kangaroos.

 

Kick off is scheduled for 3.00pm AEDT; Adam Gee will be blowing the whistle.

 

Pool B – Kumuls v Bati: Bowl Final

The ease and extent of the Bati’s win over the Kumuls last weekend took most pundits by surprise. Consequently the bookies have Fiji at $1.75 to PNG’s $2.15 this week. I think I’d be closer to evens, 50/50, toss of the coin, your guess is as good as mine, rub of the green, bounce of the ball – call it what you want!

 

You can count on the Kumuls to be kamikaze-like in the opening stages, both as a reaction to last weekend and as a pre-emptive strike to try to take control early. By contrast, expect the Bati to play to a free-wheeling, ad lib style to try to run around the PNG defensive wall. Either way, it will be one hell of a game. I’ll go with the Bati by less than a converted try.

 

Kick off is at 3.00pm AEDT on Sunday; Grant Atkins will be the referee.

 

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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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