The PNG Kumuls kept their sellout 14,800 crowd in Port Moresby at fever pitch on Saturday with a 10-try, 50-6 win over Wales on Saturday afternoon.
EXCITEMENT A-PLENTY AT THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL STADIUM
What a sight it was to have the opening match at the National Football Stadium, and the atmosphere coming through the coverage was electric. The crowd was lively and cheered heartily at everything the Kumuls did in attack and defence; they had plenty to cheer as the Kumuls ran in 10 tries and conceded just once after the final siren. The performance and crowd support will lead to the usual discussion of a PNG NRL side, but whilst commercially it will never happen, a savvy NRL could tap into the market with a game or two a year.
NON HUNTERS PLAYERS ADD THE EXTRA QUALITY THAT KUMULS NEEDED
After the PNG Hunters’ history-making success in the Queensland Intrust Super Cup, it was no surprise to see so many selected for the Kumuls’ tilt at the Rugby League World Cup; but after their big loss to Penrith in the NRL State Championship it was a worry that the majority of an international team were so easily beaten by a NSW Cup side. The Kumuls added NRL/Super League quality/potential, the extra factor they needed to be ultra competitive in this tournament. David Mead was the stand out with a hat trick, but fringe NRL players Rhyse Martin, Kato Ottio, and UK-based Garry Lo were also tremendous. It allowed them to play with a little more flair, and if they can cut out some of the errors they will trouble England in the possible quarter final matchup.
KUMULS SELECT FOUR HOOKERS
The PNG Kumuls may have set a record by selecting four hookers in their 17 against Wales. PNG Hunters hooker Wartovo Puara got the starting nod, while UK Super League-based Paul Aiton started at lock. NRL regulars James Segeyaro and Kurt Baptiste came off the bench, and you could argue they had the bigger impact on the game as Segeyaro added an extra playmaking option. Of the four hookers selected, Wartovo Puara is the most expendable if the Kumuls decide to drop one and select another kind of player on the bench like a Thompson Teteh or Moses Meninga.
WELLINGTON ALBERT WAS EXCITING, BUT ALSO ACCUSED OF BITING.
The only negative to come out of the Kumuls win was the biting allegation from Wales forward Ben Evans against PNG replacement forward Wellington Albert. That is a real shame, not only for souring a great day for PNG rugby league, but a shame for Albert who was immense coming off the bench. He scored a try and was menacing with some power hit ups. He was a late inclusion after Rod Griffin pulled out the day before, and the Kumuls may have to do without him for their next game if he is charged and found guilty.
PNG KUMULS 50
Tries: David Mead 3, Rhyse Martin 2, Paul Aiton, Wellington Albert, Nene McDonald, Justin Olam, Kato Ottio
Goals: Rhyse Martin 5/8, Ase Boas 0/2
WALES DRAGONS 6
Tries: Regan Grace
Goals: Courtney Davies