THE PNG Kumuls are just one game away from joining an elite club of rugby league superpowers next year in the Four Nations tournament after an emphatic 44-14 hiding
of pre-Pacific Cup favourites Tonga in Port Moresby yesterday.PNG will play for that honour and the newly- introduced SP Brewery Pacific Cup against surprise packages Cook Islands this Sunday in the final game of the tournament.
A victory over the Cook Islanders is the ticket for the Kumuls to join Australia, New Zealand and England in the Four Nations tournament towards the end of next year.
The giant-killing Cook Islanders shocked the Fiji Batis led by Newcastle Knights winger Wes Naiqama 24-22 on Saturday.
The unlucky Fijians will play the equally luckless Tongans on Saturday for the lesser accolades.
In a dominant exhibition of sheer guts and determination, the Kumuls, cheered on by a vocal and parochial capacity crowd at the Lloyd Robson Oval, made the heavier Tongan side, teeming with Australian NRL contract players, look like beginners.
A proud Kumuls coach, Adrian Lam, said after the match that the boys had trained hard for the game and deserved the win.
“We prepared pretty well for this game, fully conscious of the fact that the Tongans were the favourites for the Pacific Cup,” he said.
The former Maroons and Sydney Roosters half said the Kumuls had built up a pretty close rapport among themselves and this was evident in their team effort yesterday.
A disappointed Tongan captain, Parramatta Eels star Feleti Mateo, admitted the Kumuls won the game “up the middle”.
Asked what went wrong, he joked: “It was the scoreboard”, but regaining his composure, he admitted “we lost it in the middle”.n From Page 48
The smaller but robust Kumuls pack of Rodney Pora, Jay Ashton, James Nightingale, Jason Chan, Sigfred Gande, Jessie Joe Parker, Tu’u Maori, Charlie Wabo, Tyson Martin and Glen Nami matched it with the giant Tongans from the outset and came up trumps.
In the backline, halves Keith Peters and Don Aiye combined to call the shots for colleagues and man of the match Menzie Yere, Richard Kambo, captain John Wilshere and fullback and crowd favourite David Mead to run rings around their opponents and kept the crowd entertained and on their toes throughout.
A notable omission from the squad yesterday was lock Rod Griffin, who was earlier implicated in media reports of an alleged assault of a former Kumul at the Kumuls-ex-Kumuls bonding function in Port Moresby.
The Kumuls opened their account in the first five minutes when Yere sliced through the Tongan defence from 30m out to weave his way in under the posts for the first of his two tries on the day.
Wilshere made no mistake bagging the extras and PNG led 6-0.
Tonga replied shortly after when blockbusting centre Sione Tongia barged his way over out wide for the first of his and Tonga’s only three tries.
Thereafter, it was all PNG as their game plan clicked into gear with the Kumuls fully utilising their sets of sixes to their advantage and gang tackling the taller and heavier Tongans into submission for the next two quarters.
Playing in the unfamiliar role, Mead kept the crowd thrilled every time he touched the ball and was rewarded for his troubles with a double to his name, along with Yere.
The tries were among seven unanswered tries that the Kumuls racked up over the next 40 minutes to lead the Tongans 44-4 before conceding two late tries to the visitors.
The Kumuls led 12-4 after the first quarter, 20-4 at half-time and 32-4 after the third quarter.
PNG Kumuls 44: M Yere (2), D Mead (2), J Chan, A Kui, J Joe Parker, C Wabo tries; J Wilshere (6) goals beat Tonga 14: S Tongia (3) tries, Eddy Paea goal.