The PNG Kumuls signed off the first stage of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup in style with a 64-0 win over the USA Tomahawks, topping Pool C and meeting England in the quarter finals. The game also showcased the arrival of Lachlan Lam, son of Kumul legend Adrian Lam, onto the international stage.
GOOD AND BAD SELECTION HEADACHES AHEAD FOR MICHAEL MARUM
Michael Marum took the opportunity to give some of the squad members a go against the USA, and the 64-0 scoreline showed they lost nothing with the substitutions. Playmaking king Ase Boas was given the day off and replaced by Lachlan Lam, who shone for the Kumuls on debut, but more on that later. The forward pack saw the workhorse Rod Griffin return from injury, Moses Meninga and Nixon Putt given a go. None of those players let down the Kumuls against the USA, and they now have plenty of depth to choose from. Stargroth Amean hugely impressed and the Hunters fullback is a must against England next weekend. The big worry will be how bad the injury to speed machine Garry Lo is; he left the field during the game and never returned.
LACHLAN LAM FUTURE SUPERSTAR
Before the game having Lachlan Lam on the team sheet was a nice side story about the son of the great Adrian Lam representing Papua New Guinea (just like his father). But after the game he is a talking point all to himself after an exciting debut for the Kumuls. He scored two tries, and whilst one was good timing, the other was a brief look at the potential on offer. His general play was also tremendous, and seemed to link up well with halfback Watson Boas. With Watson Boas under scrutiny after the Ireland game, Lam’s performance will give Michael Marum plenty to think about, as Ase Boas is a certain to return barring injury. What a shame for the Roosters youth star that the NRL club’s recent signing of Cooper Cronk bumps him back in the pecking order.
PNG DEFENCE KEY TO RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP SUCCESS
A little known fact from the pool games of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup is that the PNG Kumuls have conceded the second fewest amount of points (12); the Kumuls – with Australia – are the only sides to have had their line breached just twice. Evidence of the importance of defending came last weekend against Ireland, where the Kumuls needed to be strong defending their line as they gave away the ball nearly 20 times. The mistake rate was better this weekend, with 14 errors compared to 19, but happily they kept the USA side to nil, a feat they missed against Wales by a few seconds. With better attacking sides to come – like England who were looking quite sharp against France – they’ll need that extra resolve next weekend.
CAN THE KUMULS BEAT ENGLAND?
On world rankings (third v 16th – behind Serbia, Canada and Jamaica) you have to say no. On paper with England having NRL and Super League talent at their disposal against a side of mainly fringe NRL hopefuls and second-tier PNG Hunters, you would once again have to say no. You could also argue that PNG had a massive advantage playing all three games at Port Moresby, and may not have been as successful elsewhere. Possibly true, but what a sight/sound it has been having the three games at the National Football Stadium. All signs say the Kumuls can’t beat England, but there is something about the way the Kumuls have been playing that you can’t ignore. They have had 36 line breaks in three games, and if they can combine their rock solid defence and reduce the errors, they can really give England a fight next Sunday.
PNG KUMULS 64
Tries: J Olam 3, L Lam 2, S Amean, W Boas, R Griffin, N MacDonald, D Mead, J Segeyaro
Goals: R Martin 10 Conv
USA TOMAHAWKS 0
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