By ISAAC LIRI
THE Papua New Guinea Kumuls started their 2017 Rugby League World Cup campaign in style with a 50-6 thrashing of Wales in their Pool C fixture on Saturday.
A record was set for the PNG LNG Kumuls in their lop-sided result at the Oil Search National Football Stadium in Port Moresby in front of 14,800 people.
It was PNG’s first win over Wales after three losses, the first of which was a 68-0 humiliation in Swansea 26 years ago.
Local fans celebrated as the Michael Marum-coached side ran in 10 tries in a dominant performance.
The Kumuls conceded a consolation try in the 80th minute to Dragons winger Regan Grace, who capitalised on a botched take in goal by Garry Lo.
Aside from that blemish, the home side’s defence was up to the mark with the Dragons struggling to come to terms with the conditions as well as the style of the Kumuls.
Kumuls skipper David Mead became the first PNG player to score a hat-trick at a World Cup.
“Obviously we will take a lot of confidence out of this game but we still believe that we got to improve in terms of our attack and defence and we were talking about that when we came off the field and there are couple of things which we can fix up and improve,” a gracious Mead said.
“The boys were getting pretty excited when they were getting arms free and finding a lot of space but errors kind of let Wales off the hook a bit so we could’ve done a bit more damage I thought,” Mead said
Second-rower Rhyse Martin, pictured, tallied the most points by a Kumul from a World Cup match.
He scored two tries and kicked five goals for an 18-point haul.
Vice-captain Ase Boas also played an understated but crucial role in the win with five try assists.
In humid conditions in PNG’s nation’s capital, the Kumuls took advantage from the beginning with a try by Mead in the 5th minute which Boas failed to convert from out wide.
Dominating field position, it did not take long for the Michael Marum-coached side to strike again as Mead got his second of the day five minutes later, although the conversion looked easy for Boas, the Kumul five-eighth pushed it wide indicating that his left knee injury was affecting his goal kicking.
The Kumuls found a lot of space to run through the back-pedalling Wales defence and centre Nene Macdonald bagged himself a try.
The back end of the opening half saw the Welshman tire as the Kumuls scored two more converted tries through Kato Ottio and Wellington Albert for a 26-0 lead at halftime.
Martin was the first to score three minutes into the second half.
The second-rower grabbed his second for the day on the 53rd minute but failed to add the extras.
Winger Justin Olam put his name on the score board after chasing a Martin short-side grubber.
Mead scored his third try in the last quarter of the game to push the score into the 40s.
PNG’s last try of the day came from veteran Paul Aiton, who found a hole off a Kurt Baptiste pass with eight minutes remaining on the clock, Martin converted for his side to hit the half century mark.
PNG 50 (David Mead 3, Rhyse Martin 2, Kato Ottio, Nene Macdonald, Justin Olam, Wellington Albert, Paul AIton tries; Martin 5 con) Wales 6 (Reagan Grace try; Courtney Davies con).
By ISAAC LIRI