venue: Dairy Farmers Stadium, Townsville
25th October 2008
Full Match Report
RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP GROUP A
England overcame a huge scare before beating Papua New Guinea in the opening World Cup game in Australia. PNG gave England a fright late in the first half, scoring two tries through Jason Chan and George Keppa to put them 16-12 up at the interval in Townsville. But Lee Smith levelled the match with the second of his three tries to ease England nerves after the break.
Martin Gleeson and Ade Gardner, with his second try of the game, saw England home to a hard-fought victory. PNG, with Hull KR stand-off Stanley Gene their dominant player, caused England all sorts of problems from the start and Gene's neat kick forced Paul Wellens to be alert early on. England knew they would have to work hard for the win but they took the lead after 12 minutes when Gardner went over for the opening score from a pass from his St Helens team-mate James Roby.
Kevin Sinfield added the extras but Tony Smith's side were rocked when PNG were awarded a penalty and Rod Griffin went over for a try, converted by John Wilshere, which sparked wild celebrations in the Kumuls camp. Roby and James Graham both missed chances but neat offloads by Rob Burrow and Wellens created the space for Smith to touch down at the corner for his first score.
The Kumuls were full of fight and they levelled the scores once more four minutes before the break, when some moments of indecision in the England defence led to Gene's pass reaching Chan, who went through the gap to score. Wilshere kicked a second goal to make it 12-12 and PNG struck again on the stroke of half-time to go in front for the first time. Scrum-half Keith Peters' high kick eluded Smith and winger Keppa picked up the loose ball to cross at the corner.
PNG could have extended their advantage early in the second half but David Moore saw his try controversially disallowed for a forward pass.
England kept pressurising the tryline and quick hands across the line led to Smith going over for his second try to level the match, but Sinfield missed the kick. PNG looked to be tiring and England started to push forward their advantage and, after another period of intense possession, Burrow's neat pass sent Gleeson over and Sinfield added the extras.
On 69 minutes, Gardner's second try from Leon Pryce's pass, converted by Sinfield, seemed to make the victory safe and Smith, on his England debut, completed his hat-trick three minutes later. But it was PNG who had the final say with Paul Aiton scoring a try and England know they will need to improve in their remaining pool games against Australia and New Zealand.
Wellens, Gardner, Gleeson, Senior, Smith, Pryce, Burrow, Peacock, Roby, Graham, Hock, Ellis, Sinfield. Subs: McGuire, Morley, Fa'asavalu, Wilkin.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
Wilshere, Kepa, Parker, Maori, Moore, Griffin, Peters, Aizue, Aiton, Exton, Costigan, Nightingale, Gene. Subs: Pora, Moni, Chan, Wabo