The PNG Kumuls can make the knockout stages with a win over USA Tomahawks when they meet on Sunday afternoon in their final pool game in Port Moresby.
The Kumuls are undefeated in the preliminary stages, taking full advantage of their passionate local support. They were made to work for their last win against Ireland, who pushed them all the way until a 79th minute try to halfback Watson Boas sealed the game. The game had plenty of errors but some great defence, so an improvement in the errors and penalties this weekend should see the Kumuls comfortably through to the quarter finals. A loss could still see them through depending on Ireland’s performance against Wales.
Some changes have been made to the PNG team this weekend, the most exciting for Kumuls fans – and casual rugby league supporters – is Lachlan Lam, named to replace Ase Boas at five eighth. Lam (son of the great PNG and Queensland player Adrian Lam) looked good in his limited chances in the tri-series warm up in Fiji, but has yet to play in the Rugby League World Cup. Wellington Albert is out injured, and Michael Marum is using the game to give opportunities to Moses Meninga, Nixon Putt and Thompson Teteh.
The USA are winless so far, and they were beaten 46-0 against Italy. They haven’t played too bad, they just lack a few more of the top class players that other teams have. Given they tried to get as many North American-based players as possible for this World Cup it might be a good starting point for them. As would a US-based team in the English rugby league system if it happened. Just in time for the US to host their World Cup in 2025.
It will be a shame not to see any more games in Port Moresby after this Sunday. The crowds have been fantastic to hear through the broadcast and one can only imagine the thrill of being there for one of the games.
The key battle of the game will be if the USA can repeat Ireland’s effort last weekend and force some mistakes out of the Kumuls. From there the Tomahawks have some decent attacking talent at the back as Corey Makelim and Ryan Burroughs try and take full advantage. If they can’t force those mistakes and give the Kumuls more possession, PNG have the backline to score a lot of points.
The PNG Kumuls got home against Ireland on their resolute defence, but the amount of dropped ball was very frustrating; happily they still won with a completion rate of less than 60 per cent, in similar style to the PNG Hunters’ Queensland Intrust Super Cup grand final win. Surely the completion rate will improve and that means more opportunities for the outside backs like Garry Lo and David Mead who have been PNG’s best against Ireland and Wales respectively.
PNG by 40
Papua New Guinea v USA at Oil Search National Football Stadium, Port Moresby, 4pm (AEDT)
PNG squad: 1 David Mead (c) 2 Justin Olam 3 Kato Ottio 4 Nene Macdonald 5 Garry Lo 6 Lachlan Lam 7 Watson Boas 8 Moses Meninga 9 James Segeyaro 10 Luke Page 11 Rhyse Martin 12 Willie Minoga 13 Paul Aiton 14 Kurt Baptiste 15 Stargroth Amean 16 Nixon Putt 17 Thompson Teteh 18 Rod Griffin 19 Wartovo Puara 20 Enock Maki 21 Ase Boas
USA squad: 1 Corey Makelim 2 Ryan Burroughs 3 Junior Vaivai 4 Jonathan Alley 5 Bureta Faraimo 6 Kristian Freed 7 Tui Samoa 8 Eddy Pettybourne 9 David Marando 10 Mark Offerdahl (c) 11 Danny Howard 12 Joe Eichner 13 Nicholas Newlin 14 Sam Tochterman-Talbott 15 Fotukava Malu 16 Martwain Johnston 17 Gabriel Farley 18 Steve Howard 19 Andrew Kneisly 20 David Ulch 21 Joshua Rice
Referee: Adam Gee
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