Rugby League

International rugby league returns

Kiwis dominate Tonga

The New Zealand Kiwis stood strong and matched the Mate Ma’a Tonga hit for hit to win 26-6 at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.

The Kiwis had to battle the vocal Tongan fans as well. Although the game was in Auckland, New Zealand, it seemed more of a home venue for the Tongans.

Mount Smart Stadium was drowned in a sea of red flags. Kiwis captain Jesse Bromwich said it was a tough and physical encounter.

“The game meant a lot. I am just proud of the boys. We had a game plan and we came earlier in the week and decided how we are going to play and execute,” he said after the game.

New Zealand ready for Tonga at Mt Smart Stadium. Picture: NRL Twitter

“Mike put a challenge onto us as being the best defensive international team and we went out there and we got stuck in.

“They are not a small pack or a small team. It was really physical out there and I am really happy with the efforts put in by the boys.”

The match was also a return of international rugby league for many teams. This game was the first for the teams in almost three years.

The Kiwis dominated the match scoring four tries, justifying the number one ranking they will take into this year’s World Cup.
Bromwich said it was good experience playing at home.

“It’s really nice to be home, the atmosphere is crazy. Rugby league’s back in New Zealand again and it’s great to be part of it all,” he said.

Tongan captain Jason Taumalolo said he has always wanted more emphasis placed on Test matches and promoting the sport in his home nation.

Tongans in full war cry as they get ready to face New Zealand in the rugby league international. Picture: NRL Twitter

“Three years is too long to be coming back here to Auckland and seeing the red sea (crowd) again.”

“Win, lose or draw, to see the red flags flying, there’s no better feeling. It’s a blessing.”

New Zealand dominated from the outset. The Kiwis scored two of their tries inside the first eight minutes through Jahrome Hughes and Jordan Rapana.

Sione Katoa responded for Tonga before Ronaldo Mulitalo pushed the home side 20-6 clear at half-time, off an assist from fellow Test newcomer Dylan Brown.

Isaiah Papali’i scored the only try of the second half but his New Zealand team could have racked up more, dominating territory via halfback Hughes’ superior tactical kicking game.

Both teams are among the favourites for the rescheduled October-November World Cup in England.

Samoa thrashes Cook Islands

It was Toa Samoa all the way in the rugby league Pacific Test against the Cook Islands as they dominated play and came out 42-12 winners on Saturday night.

David Nofoaluma after scoring one of his four tries against the Cook Islands on Saturday night. Picture: NRL Twitter

Samoa’s David Nofoaluma crossed for four tries sounding a warning ahead of the World Cup.

Samoa coach Matt Parish fielded eight debutants for the international fixture while only two players – Marty Taupau and Bunty Afoa – remained from the last Test match played in 2019.

“I thought it was good, we had a young team, probably the youngest team I’ve been associated with. We started well and finished well but lost our way a little bit in the middle. I’ve got to give the Cook Islands some credit, they played really well,” said Parish.

After seven losses in their past nine matches, the emergence of young NRL stars Josh Schuster, Izack Tago and Taylan May in recent seasons added flair for the Samoan side while Nofoaluma cashed in on the edge.

Tago and May crossed for early tries on international debut before Nofoaluma scored a double in each half as the Samoans racked up a comfortable lead throughout the evening.

The Cook Islands struck back twice through Rabbitohs prop Davvy Moale and former Bunny Steven Marsters in a promising second period for the side ahead of their World Cup campaign in October.

Nofoaluma was happy with his performance after the match. He said he looked forward to more internationals.

Toa Samoa with their war chant before the kick off. Picture: NRL Twitter

“It was just nice to get away for the week with these boys and get across the line a few times in front of a big crowd, I’ve really enjoyed the chance to step away from club footy,” he said.

Cook Islands coach Anthony Iro said the they would be building on from here.

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“It probably shows it’s a relatively new squad. I was pleased with their fight. When we didn’t have a lot of footy things were looking a bit ugly but the boys fought back,” Iro said.

“From then on I thought we were evenly matched and then at 20-6 we threw an intercept and that sort of deflated the bubble a little bit.”

Mead farewelled with Kumul’s win

PNG Kumul’s captain David Mead was given the perfect farewell as they beat Fiji Bati 24-14 at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.

After the game, Mead said it had been a special week for him leading into the game.

PNG Kumul’s captain David Mead (R) was given the perfect farewell as they beat Fiji Bati 24-14 at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: PNGRFL

“It has meant everything for me. If I had not played in that 2008 World Cup, if I didn’t get that opportunity, I don’t think I would be here today,” he said at the post game press conference.

“It has meant everything to me. It has given me a chance to provide for my family. Hopefully some of the young guys coming in, can take some of those opportunities.”

Mead also confirmed that he would not be returning to international. He gave the Bati credit for starting the game with speed, saying this had the Kumuls back paddling, but the team found the spirit to win the game.

It was a good game with both teams testing each other. The Bati obviously came into the match with plans to spoil Mead’s farewell, but that was not to be. Mead grabbed a try and ran for 139 metres. As captain Mead had led his country to their eighth win in their past 11 Test matches.

It was Fiji who looked to have struck the first blow in the 10th minute. Taane Milne powered his way through and crashed over from close range but he was ruled to have lost the ball on the way to the ground.

Bati maintained the pressure on and co-captain Kevin Naiqama opened the scoring when he put in a grubber and cleaned up the scraps after Dan Russell had fumbled the ball.

PNG Kumuls when they last faced Fiji two years ago. Picture: PNGRFL

The Kumuls break came when Storm superstar Justin Olam stepped his way past defenders and raced 40 metres down the left touchline. He sent a pass inside for Lachlan Lam to score.

With the conversion the scores were level at 6-6.

Six minutes later the Kumuls debutant McKenzie Lei slid past four defenders on a 15-metre charge to the line to put his team up 12-6 at the break.

The Kumuls could have extended that lead at the start of the second but desperate cover defence from Bato full back denied Solo Wane when opened up on the left wing.

There was also a double movement ruling given in the 50th minute as Laybutt shrugged off Viliame Kikau and surged to the tryline.

Fiji then worked their way to the other end where Milne put in a well weighted grubber for Turuva to cap a stunning performance with a four-pointer. Nautua Masima missed the easy conversion and PNG clung to a 12-10 lead.

It was Kumul’s Lam who stood tall, splitting the Fiji defence and finding skipper David Mead inside him for an emotional try as the Kumuls went up by eight.

Player of the match Lam then put the icing on the Kumuls cake in the 75th minute when he collected an Olam grubber and dived over for his second try of the night to make it 24-10.

Kumuls Justin Olam shows why he is so dangerous with the ball. Picture: PNG Kumuls

A consolation try to Turuva was a fitting reward for his outstanding game in the No.1 jersey for Fiji but it was the Kumuls home 24-14.

Fiji coach Joe Rabele said the Kumuls took the opportunity and they deserved the win. He said this match provided them with the opportunity to prepare for the World Cup.

Bati captain Kikau said the match was solid and they are looking forward to the World Cup.


1 Comment
  1. Brian Siprokau 3 months ago

    Fiji Bati’s forwards were superb in their roles creating sparks in the game. I think they lack a good halves combination. The engine room are the number 6, 7 and 9 they didn’t do much to create space and set plays for their big forwards. It was a good game though.

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