England booked a semi final against Tonga with a scrappy 36-6 win over the PNG Kumuls in Melbourne on Sunday, scoring seven tries to one. The Kumuls tried hard despite losing their captain and fullback David Mead within 90 seconds with a head knock, but England were just a little too good.
Early Kumuls enthusiasm no match for English
Given the recent upsets of Tonga and Fiji over New Zealand, it wasn’t completely inconceivable that the Kumuls could serve up another against England, after some strong performances in the pool phase against admittedly weaker opposition. PNG came out with the intent to make England’s afternoon as difficult as possible. They possibly should have scored when Kato Ottio took the ball from a Watson Boas crossfield kick, but the centre dropped the ball trying to put it down; not long after they were punished as England scored from a set play courtesy of a Kumuls penalty. England doubled up six minutes later on the back of another penalty; from there the Kumuls’ last tackle plays dropped off, missed tackles crept in, as did the penalties. If Justin Olam didn’t push Gareth Widdop out of the way illegally – and scored just before the break – it could have been 14-6 and a different story.
Errors aplenty from both sides but Kumuls’ are more critical
Both sides made plenty of errors. England made 19 to PNG’s 14, but it was where the Kumuls made their errors that made the difference. England will be disappointed with their execution, but the majority of their errors occurred whilst on the attack deep in PNG territory – spoiling a promising attacking raid – rather than in their own half. The Kumuls made too many errors close to their own line. England had better attacking positions and made PNG pay when they held onto the ball. Despite PNG’s admirable tenacity, England could have won by 50.
Jermaine McGillvary making it a year for wingers
With Dane Gagai taking a rare State of Origin Best in Series for Queensland, could Jermaine McGillvary make it a wingers double in the World Cup? OK, he’s probably not best in tournament, but is certainly up there with one of England’s best so far. He scored a double for England, set up another with a burning 70-metre run, brushing off multiple Kumuls would-be tacklers along the way, and ran for 232 metres. He has been a powerful excitement machine so far, and was one of their best against Australia in their first game. He may get another crack if they can beat Tonga in the semi final next weekend.
PNG Kumuls progress despite no further progress
It should be remembered the Kumuls bowed out of the previous two tournaments without winning a game. Sunday’s scoreline reflects England taking their chances more than the Kumuls. With a lot of players coming through the Hunters system – either directly from this year’s Queensland Intrust Super Cup premiership-winning team or graduates that have moved on with another NRL-aligned club – one can only imagine what another four years of future Kumuls getting experience through the Hunters in the Queensland Cup will do for their progress.
Tries: J. McGillvary (2) (13m, 19m), K. Watkins (2) (68m, 72m), A. Walmsley (33m), B. Currie (56m), R. Hall (79m)
Goals: G. Widdop 4 conversions
PNG KUMULS 6
Tries: G. Lo (59m)
Goals: R. Martin 1 conversion
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