PNG hold on to upset Fiji
Papua New Guinea shocked far more-fancied Fiji 26-14 in the first of the NRL’S Pacific tests at Campbelltown Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.
Despite giving up more than 500 games of NRL experience to their rivals, the Kumuls flew to a 26-4 halftime lead and held on in in the second half as Fiji enjoyed the weight of possession.
With just six NRL players to Fiji’s 10, the Kumuls ran in four tries, fullback Justin Olam starring with one and setting up another while winger Junior Rau bagged a double.
However, Melbourne rookie Olam’s evening ended in pain when he left the field midway through the second half with a leg injury, after running 174 metres in a dominant display.
Manly’s NRL injury crisis also took another hit, with Fiji winger Akuila Uate limping from the field with an apparent ankle injury late in the first half.
Coming off their third-successive World Cup semifinal and, in their first game with Matt Adamson as coach, the world No 5 Bati had plenty of ball early in both halves but struggled to take their chances.
Jarryd Hayne – playing in the halves – laid on two tries and Suliasi Vunivalu scored one on the wing in the second half but the Bati always looked as if they had too much to make up.
In comparison, the 10th-ranked Kumuls looked every bit the team who had nine players who run out together every week for the PNG Hunters in the Queensland Cup under coach Michael Marum.
They completed at 81 per cent in the first half and broke through the line four times, including one length-of-the-field effort on the set after a kickoff to put the game beyond doubt before the break.
Former Canberra and St George Illawarra prop Luke Page scored a try and had three tackle busts, while Canterbury’s Reece Martin and the Hunters’ Nixon Putt were damaging in the second row.
The win marked the Kumuls’ second in a row over Fiji, having also beaten the Bati in 2016 in the corresponding fixture.