THE Australian Prime Minister’s XIII had too much depth and pace for their PNG counterparts, running away with the game 42-18 in yesterday’s international rugby league friendly at the Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby.
Penrith Panthers speedster Michael Jennings scored a treble, while captain and halfback Jonathan Thurston had a 100% success rate with his boots, converting all seven tries scored by the Australians on the day.
The PNG boys, however, cracked the strong Aussie defence on three separate occasions, twice in rapid succession in the first half, after the Aussies led 18-0 for the first 20 minutes to peg back the margin to a respectable 12-18 at the half-time hooter.
PNG PM’s XIII coach Adrian Lam was disappointed at the result, saying the scores could have been closer had the boys kept their mistakes to a minimum and tackled hard throughout the match.
He admitted PNG’s lack of ball security was a contributing factor to the day’s disappointment.
“Our completion rate was poor. We just couldn’t hold onto the ball,” he said.
However, he said as a team, their overall performance had improved and the future looks promising.
PNG were the late starters yesterday as Australia soared to an 18-0 lead after 20 minutes, courtesy of tries to prop David Shillington (eighth minute) and twice through Jennings in the 10th and 17th minutes, with Thurston collecting all the extras.
The PNG boys finally cracked the Australian defence in final 10 minutes of when Lahanis rake Sigfred Gande utility forward Tony Butterfield scored in quick succession with Lahanis’ utility back Glen Nami successful with both conversions to close the margin at 12-18 at the break. The Aussies were back on the board in the opening minutes of the second half when burly utility forward George Rose crashed over two minutes after the kick off and Thurston kicked the extras to jump to a 24-12 lead.
However, PNG showed glimpses of a revival when five-eighth Dion Aiye made a line-break in his own 20m mark, ran 50m, and offloaded to front rower Rod Griffin in support who was pulled down short of the Aussies’ tryline.
In the ensuring play-the ball, star Muruks backliner Jessie Joe Parker weaved his way past the receding Australian defence to score next to the uprights.
Nami made no mistake with his boot to notch the scores at 18-24 and everyone thought PNG was back in contention for the day’s honours.
The Australians however, stepped up a gear scoring three more unanswered tries to lock Glen Stewart (55th), prop Matt Scott and centre Jennings with Thurston converting all to run out eventual winners 42-18.
Australian PM’s XIII coach Mal Meninga said the game was a spirited affair, entertaining and everybody had a go.
“Your boys played an aggressive game and our boys are battered and bruised for the encounters – it was a hard but entertaining game,” the Test and Queensland Maroons legend said.
“PNG are starting to get their structure in shape and I’m sure Adrian (Lam) will be happy with that.
“I think we got the messages about HIV/AIDS, no violence against women and no violence against referees and match officials across,” Meninga said.
PNG not only suffered a demoralising loss yesterday but lost star utility backliner Joe Parker shortly after he scored in the second half.
He was seen shouldered off the field clutching his left side.
Match officials will be sweating over his availability for the PNG Origin and Pacific Cup matches over the next few weeks.
Other than playing before a packed crowed of over 5,000 people including Governor-General Sir Paulias Matane, who kicked off the game, the day was marred by gate-crashers trying to gain entry via holes in walls and police responding with tear gas and gunfire and even heavy handed tactics, when some spectators came too close or harassed the Australian team, in full view of other spectators and the visitors including an Australian schoolboys side.
Meanwhile, defending champions SBS Muruks dropped out of the bemobile Cup finals race when they lost 14-18 to Masta Mak Rangers in a sudden death play-off in Mt Hagen yesterday.
Bintangor Goroka Lahanis advanced to a clash with Agmark Gurias next week with an 11-8 victory over Toyota Enga Mioks in Lae.