By ISAAC LIRI
PAPUA New Guinea maintained their top spot in Pool C of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup after overcoming a fearless Ireland 14-6 in Port Moresby yesterday.
With the home side leading 8-6 most of the second half with the visitors threatening to spoil the party for the Kumuls, a fumble by Wolfhounds prop Kyle Amor in the 78th saw Kumuls halfback Watson Boas kick through the loose ball and win the race to the line to seal a tight win and ensure coach Michael Marum’s men make the quarterfinals with a game left to go in the pool stage.
Marum described the game afterwards as tough and scrappy with a lot of incomplete sets brought about by handling errors, poor ball security and some brutal defence by Ireland, who were led solidly by halfback Liam Finn.
“We expected the Irish to come hard at us but full credit to the boys for hanging in there with their defence,” Marum said.
“A lot of work needs to be done to get rid of those errors. We made 20 errors and we’ll work on that at training this week,” Marum said.
A disappointed but proud Ireland coach Mark Aston described the match as grand-final like, giving credit to his boys for standing up against the Kumuls.
“This game was like a grand final and both teams wanted the prize and we could have won it and our boys stood up and I think the Kumuls played well and they got out of jail today, we pushed hard and I’m proud of my boys and what we got out of this game,” Aston said.
Having good field position in the opening minutes of the first half, the visitors were first to draw points on the board with an early try from hooker Michael McIlorum, who scored off a mistake on the PNG line fielding a Finn bomb in the 7th minute of the game for a 6-0 lead.
The Kumuls came back firing when in some good field positions but coughed up their opportunities until the 17th minute when Castleford Tigers-bound Garry Lo dodged and weaved his way to the try line.
Lock Rhyse Martin failed to add the extras in windy conditions for the home side to trail 6-4.
The Kumuls added another try through St George Illawarra Dragons centre Nene Macdonald to lead 8-6 at the break.
The second half was a brutal 40 minutes as both sides traded hard tackles in the middle third of the field while trying to gain some ascendency.
It took a mistake by Ireland in the dying stages to give PNG the opening they needed and No.7 Boas obliged.
“Watson scored off an error and we were lucky there but we want to see our boys play better than that in the future,” Marum said.
PNG Kumuls 14 (Garry Lo, Nene Macdonald, Watson Boas tries; Ase Boas con) Ireland 6 (Michael McIlorum try; Liam Finn con) H/T: PNG 8 Ireland 6. Crowd: 14,800
By ISAAC LIRI