The National, Monday November 11th, 2013
PAPUA New Guinea won admirers for a gutsy performance against New Zealand, despite losing by their biggest margin at this World Cup, on Saturday morning.
Kumuls team manager Bob Cutmore said the 56-10 scoreline was not indicative of the “committment and dedication” shown.
After a predicatbly slow start, where PNG were starved of possession and territory, coach Adrian Lam and high performance director Mal Meninga were seen smiling at the end of the Group B fixture at Headingly in Leeds – presumably proud and satisfied.
Cutmore said although the Kiwis started off in riotous form in the opening half to be 40-0 after 40 minutes, the Kumuls’ second half grit showed a lot of character.
“That was a great effort. Our guys turned it on with commitment and dedication against a very big Kiwi side. We had a tough first half but the second half showed we didn’t give up,” Cutmore said.
“The speed of the game had a lot of our players straining to catch their breath. Our debutant Joe Bruno played 26 minutes and he couldn’t believe the speed of the game.”
Cutmore (pictured) said the Kiwis were on another level but it did not mean Papua New Guinea could not eventually rise to that standard.
“We were playing a side that had all National Rugby League players while we had three NRL players and a couple from the UK.
“Most of our guys are from the Digicel Cup and the standard isn’t the same. But with more experience and time PNG will be able to match these teams.
“We can only learn from these experiences.”
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearny and several of his players visited the Kumuls changing room after the match in what Cutmore described as a “great ending”.
“The Kiwis came over to our changing room after the match. They were mixing it up and laughing with our guys. It was good feeling,” Cutmore said.
The crowd in Headingly may have been there to see Sonny Bill Williams in action but they were at their loudest when the Kumuls crossed for their two tries in the second half.
It was not all peachy out in the centre as PNG made a point of not taking a backward step against the likes of super star Williams, 130kg prop Sam Kasiano and Frank Paul Nu’uausala.
Kumuls halfback Dion Aiye was ready to go toe to toe with Williams, who is the New Zealand heavyweight champion, after the big Kiwi backrower took acception to a body slam early in the second half.
After the Kiwis unveilled a new and provocative haka, there was guranteed tension with Kearny’s side looking to put on a big score.
The Kiwis made their intentions known before kick off with Kearny naming one of the biggest packs with the aim of bulldozing their way to victory.
Kasiano coming off the bench had Ben Matulino, 193cm, 116kg and Jesse Bromwich, 194, 118kg to soften up the Kumuls but reserve Mark Mexico sparked the Kumuls with several big hit ups one of which saw the Gurias front man face off with Kiwis enforcer Nu’uausala.
Australian rugby league website NRL.com rated Mexico PNG’s best forward: “The best of the bench forwards, his bullocking runs looked the most likely to trouble the Kiwi defenders. He passed the 100-metre mark with three tackle breaks.”
Cutmore said the match was most probably the last World Cup for Menzie Yere, 30, whom he described as being one of the best for PNG.
“This will probably be Menzies last World Cup. He was one of our best.
“He was a little quiet in the first two matches but he really stood up against the Kiwis,” Cutmore said.
“I thought Paul Aiton was strong of the bench and David Mead has been a standout over the three games.”
The Kumuls are scheduled to fly out from Manchester on Tuesday morning (Tuesday evening PNG time), transiting through Abu Dhabi (UAE) and then Manila (Philippines).
The team arrives in Port Moresby on Thursday morning at 5am.
A press conference will be held later in the morning at the Holiday Inn.
Yere, Jason Chan and Aiton will remain in England.
The rest of the squad including coach Lam and Meninga and the support staff will return to Port Moresby.