Who would’ve thought that one Josh Dugan ankle-tap could be the difference between World Cup glory and despair? It was certainly a final of epic magnitude, two sets of gladiators fighting it out until the bitter end; blood, sweat and ultimate tears for the men in White.
Overall though, the Suncorp showdown brought to an end a mesmerising five weeks of rugby league excellence. A tournament which highlighted the Tongan national team as a new powerhouse of the International scene, raised controversial debates over group stage progress (I’m looking at you Samoa), and showed the best and worst that rugby league as a sport has to offer.
But after the dust has settled, how well did your nation do? Was it a World Cup to remember, rightly or wrongly, or will it fail to live long in the memory of your adoring National team fanatics. Take a look at how we have graded all 14 sides in this year’s league extravaganza.
All in all, John Kear’s side will probably not look back on their Australian adventure with any great fondness. In truth, nobody really expected the Welsh to turn up and claim any great scalps, and so it proved.
The writing was on the wall as soon as they were drawn alongside Papua New Guinea and Ireland in the group stages, but the Dragons unfortunately looked to have regressed in the last four years.
The loss of big forward Tyson Frizzell, who opted to align himself with the Australians, was a huge blow, and ultimately the Welsh never really had anyone in their ranks who had the skill and creative guile to cause opposition sides a problem.
With just three tries scored over the whole tournament and a points difference of -138 over three games, it looks like Kear has his work cut out trying to pick up his relatively young group of players and turning them into anything other than the whipping boys of the international scene.
It is astounding to think that Ireland finished the last World Cup rooted to the foot of Group A after big losses to England, Australia and Fiji.
Fast forward to the latest edition of the competition, and there must surely be an overwhelming feeling of pride and jubilance mixed with a huge slice of frustration and dejectedness.
The Wolfhounds showed everyone watching that they were not just going to the tournament to make up the numbers; comfortable wins over Wales and Italy set up a winner-takes-all showdown with PNG in front of a ferocious Port Moresby crowd.
Their ability to run The Kumuls right up to the end just shows how impressive a job Mark Aston has done, taking a side of experienced Super League players for various clubs, and turning them into one of the most collective units of the whole event.
It is just unfortunate that, despite finishing with two wins out of three and coming second in group C, Ireland were eliminated at the expense of Samoa, a side who failed to register a win and scraped a draw against Scotland in the last game of their group.
It is a case of what if for the Irish, with progression to the quarter finals a real issue for World Cup organisers to address in the coming months. Despite this, the Irish can take huge pride from what has been a tournament of real promise and improvement from the Irish.
When the tournament heads to England in 2021, Ireland will be hoping to have what it takes to make it to the elusive quarter final stage.
Papua New Guinea-
If one team could symbolise how sport can bring a whole country together, it is the PNG national team.
Cheered on game after game by their adoring Port Moresby faithful, The Kumuls showed that they were the real in the latest edition of the competition.
Their flamboyant attacking displays and steeliness in defence earned them many plaudits from coaches and fans alike, and their margin of defeat, as they were eliminated 36-6 by England at the quarter final stage, was perhaps a little harsh given how much of a scare they gave Wayne Bennett’s side, in the first half at least.
Their star players have certainly caught the eye of clubs across the world, with wingers Kato Ottio and Garry Lo securing moves to Super League sides Widnes Vikings and Castleford Tigers respectively.
The progression of the PNG Hunters in the Intrust Super Cup has surely played a part in their national team’s success, and the next few years could be pivotal for The Kumuls, in terms of building the platform for sustained international success.
When Great Britain next head Down Under for their revamped tour of the Southern Hemisphere, a warm-up match in front of a packed Port Moresby Stadium must surely be a dead cert, come 2019.
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