PNG, Italy, Fiji win at Rugby League World Cup
SYDNEY (AP) — Watson Boas scored two minutes from full time to clinch Papua New Guinea’s 14-6 win over Ireland at the Rugby League World Cup on Sunday, likely propelling the Kumuls into the quarterfinals with co-hosts Australia and New Zealand.
Papua New Guinea held a two-point lead for 52 minutes before Boas pounced on a dropped pass in the Ireland backline, kicked through and won the race to the ball to score.
The win kept Papua New Guinea unbeaten after two rounds and atop Group C from which only one team will progress to the playoffs, likely to face England in the quarterfinals.
Italy and Fiji kept their playoff hopes alive with emphatic wins in Group D and will meet on Friday to decide which team progresses from that group.
The Italians have a 1-1 record after their 42-6 win over the United States while Fiji are unbeaten after a record 72-6 win over hapless Wales. Wales was beaten 50-4 by Papua New Guinea in its opening match.
Fiji scored eight tries to lead 42-6 at halftime and another six in the second half. Suliasi Vunivalu touched down three times and Taane Milne and Viliame Kikau scored twice.
Milne was man of the match with three line breaks and six off loads but NRL star Jarryd Hayne was also influential, scoring the first try of the second half and creating several others.
Fiji ripped apart the Wales defense with 15 line breaks and 18 offloads.
“Our forwards really stepped up and made it easy for the boys out wide,” said Milne who was named man of the match. “We’ve still got a bit to work on but we’ll focus on Italy now.”
Defending champion Australia, New Zealand and Tonga all clinched quarterfinal places on Saturday by winning their second pool matches.
Australia beat France 52-6 after its 18-4 win over England and New Zealand beat Scotland 74-6 after previously beating Samoa 38-8.
Tonga followed its 50-4 first round win over Scotland with a 32-18 win over Pacific rivals Samoa in a match that was marred by violence between rival fans.
Police said 29 people were arrested in south Auckland during raucous celebrations that followed the match on Saturday but the arrests were mainly for disorderly behavior and there was no further violence.
Four people were arrested at the match in Hamilton, three for running onto the ground and one for drunkenness.
New Zealand plays Tonga in its last pool match next Saturday, which may also be explosive because the Tonga team contains four former Kiwis — most prominently the NRL star Jason Taumalolo — who turned their backs on New Zealand to play for the Tonga team at the World Cup.
Scotland entered the tournament as the fourth-ranked team and drew 18-18 with New Zealand when the teams last met at the 2016 Four Nations tournament. But it leaves in disgrace after losing 50-4 to Tonga and then to New Zealand in its heaviest-ever test defeat.
Three players, including captain Danny Brough, were ejected from the Scotland squad on Sunday for misconduct after being deemed too drunk to board a flight from Christchurch to Cairns, venue of their last pool match.
In Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea fell behind to Ireland early after allowing fullback Scott Grix to score a try from a speculative kick by winger Shannon McDonnell.
The Kumuls hit back soon after with powerful winger Garry Lo scoring Papua New Guinea’s first try in the 15th minute, before taking the lead on Nene McDonald’s 26th minute try to the delight of a capacity crowd of 14,800.
After leading 8-6 at halftime it wasn’t until Boas’ 78th minute-try that Papua New Guinea made the game safe, with frequent handling errors preventing further scoring opportunities.
“It feels great,” Kumuls player Kurt Baptiste said. “We knew we were in for a tough challenge today.
“The Irish really gave it everything but the boys stuck at it, kept defending and we held them out.”
Joe Mantellato scored a try and converted seven others in Italy’s 46-0 win over the United States that followed its 36-12 loss to Ireland in the first round.
Joe Tramontana and James Tedesco scored two tries apiece while Ryan Ghietti, Paul Vaughan and Mason Cerutto also scored in the match at Townsville.