Australia 18 def. England 4
An absolute cracker of a match between two old rivals to kick off the tournament in Melbourne. Both sides (particularly the Aussies) showed signs of rustiness, having not played competitive football for at least a month. There was an abundance to like about the display from the English, however, the class of the Aussies, particularly the performance of Billy Slater, would ultimately be the difference between the old foes.
Papua New Guinea 50 def. Wales 6
Having experienced a wonderful season in which the PNG Hunters claimed the Queensland Cup, the Kumuls continued the momentum in their demolition of Wales in Port Moresby. Buoyed by their parochial supporters and led by skipper David Mead, the Kumuls simply destroyed the Welsh, who were left wondering what hit them. In the process, they showed why they are a dangerous outfit.
Samoa 8 def. by New Zealand 38
Although the final scoreline was rather flattering for New Zealand, it demonstrated that they are to be written off at one’s own peril. It was a tale of two halves, as the Kiwis held a slender 10-4 advantage at the break. It took a second-half blitz to set up the big win for the co-hosts in Auckland. The scary part is that the Kiwis can only improve, given the number of errors made. For the Samoans, they will need to improve substantially if they are to match it with the best in this tournament.
Fiji 58 def. USA 12
Fiji demonstrated in this match why they are among the dark horses with a comprehensive 58-12 thrashing of the USA in Townsville. For the Fijians, NRL stars Kevin Naiqama, Akuila Uate, Suliasi Vunivalu and Jarryd Hayne were among the try scorers. This wealth of NRL experience proved vital for the Bati. Although the Americans were soundly beaten, they never stopped trying, however, their lack of NRL experience was apparent.
Ireland 36 def. Italy 12
With their surprise victory over Italy in Cairns, the Irish reminded everyone why they must not be written off. Starting the match as the underdogs, the Wolfhounds out-enthused the Italians in the first of the inter-group matches, dominating them through the middle and in key positions. The Azzurri’s cause was not helped by injuries to five-eighth Jack Johns and star fullback James Tedesco.
Lebanon 29 def. France 18
The major upset of the tournament thus far occurred in Australia’s national capital, Canberra. Led by a masterclass from halfback Mitchell Moses, the Lebanese had broken through for their first ever victory in any of their World Cup appearances, upsetting the French in the process. The scoreline was somewhat harsh on the French, who drew level three times before Moses showed his growing maturity. This victory puts the Cedars in prime position to qualify for the knock-out stages.
Scotland 4 def. by Tonga 50
Tongan coach Kristian Woolf had wondered for a long time how his team would fare with all of its eligible players. He received his answer yesterday in the sweltering heat in Cairns, in which the Mate Ma’a blew the Scottish off the paddock in the first half, while scoring at almost a point per minute. The Scots simply had no answer to the Tongans, who were led by the rampaging Jason Taumalolo and a hat trick from centre Michael Jennings. To the Bravehearts’ credit, they were able to stem the flow of points, while claiming a try themselves, before the Tongans eventually reached the half-century. With this, the Tongans sent an ominous warning to their future opponents.
What was your favourite game of the first week of action? Which players stood out for you? Let us know in the comments below.
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