France wins 9-8 after PNG miss last-gasp penalty
Papua New Guinea fullback David Mead missed a late penalty in front of the posts to allow France to escape with a 9-8 victory in their Rugby League World Cup opener in Hull on Sunday.
Mead, who hadn’t converted both of PNG’s tries, lined up the goalkick from 23 meters out into a strong wind and watched it sail well left.
PNG missed out on its first World Cup win in 13 years in front of a partisan crowd of 7,400, while favored France avenged losing to PNG in Paris in the 2000 tournament opener. Twelve of the French starters were also back at the same Craven Park in northern England where their Super League campaign ended with the Catalans in the playoffs.
Standoff Thomas Bosc burrowed under two defenders to score in the fifth minute, then converted his try.
Winger Nene McDonald replied for PNG in his debut in the 17th. Ray Thompson broke, but his offload bounced off Isreal Eliab’s head into the in-goal and France’s Frederic Vaccari swatted the ball, but straight to McDonald.
France finished the half better with Theo Fages having a try disallowed for a double movement and scrumhalf William Barthau botching a counterattack when he passed over his support and into touch.
Josiah Abavu’s first try for PNG put them in front two minutes into the new half, but it was their only points as they dominated for another 15 minutes.
Bosc kicked a penalty in the 60th to tie the score, and Barthau hit a drop goal four minutes later, also from 35 meters, to regain the lead.
Barthau then almost cost his side as he was named man of the match. He was offside catching a speculative high kick, then spilled it and limped off as Mead prepared to take his shot.