venue: Brewery Field, Bridgend
28th October 2007
Full Match Report
In front of a bumper and enthusiastic crowd at Celtic Crusaders' Brewery Field ground, Wales warmed up for their big date in Scotland next week with an excellent 50-10 win over Papua New Guinea. Nine players who are on Celtic Crusaders books turned out at their home ground and they impressed their loyal supporters with a gritty hard-working display which will put them in high spirits for the World Cup qualifier. The win made it three from three for Wales against their south sea island opponents, following victories in 1991 and 2000, but this win will probably go down as one of the most memorable, if not surprising. PNG came to Wales with a strong squad, if hampered by the loss of Hull KR duo Stanley Gene and Makali Aizu, and were predicted by many to win the game, but as coach Martin Hall said afterwards, Wales had the determination and it was a fine team performance.
"When you score 50 points in an international, it's more than one player that's played well, it's a good team performance," Hall said. "I think everyone anticipated a closer game but we played well. Papua New Guinea are a good side - they held an Australian team on their own patch a few weeks ago so we needed to do well today, and we did." Hall is now looking forward to next week's World Cup qualifier where Wales need to overcome a seven-point deficit to qualify for next year's Finals in Australia. "Today was an important game but it's nothing compared to next week," Hall added. "There was a lot of pride and passion shown in the Welsh shirt today and if we can do that again next week, then we should complete our job."
Both sides had early chances in the match. Iestyn Harris, winning his first Welsh Rugby League cap since the 2000 World Cup, kicked a hopeful grubber but it was picked up by Michael Mark. New Crusaders signing Luke Dyer broke away minutes later but was pulled into touch by Steve Franciscus and Tu Maori. The resulting scrum created a chance for the Kumuls by Gimapau Keimelo fumbled the pass when he had a near clear run to goal. But the visitors eventually took the lead on 11 minutes. Jessie Joe created the chance, he slipped the ball to Kevin Prior who in turn passed to George Moni who went in under the sticks. Salford's John Wilshere converted.
Wales levelled things less than five minutes later following a penalty. Phil Joseph received the ball from the quick tap and producing an excellent solo effort, barged his way past five of the Kumul backline to ground. Harris converted. From kick-off, Harris made the second try, slipping a pass to Bradford club-mate Dave Halley who ran in the sticks. Harris' kick made it 12-6 to Wales.
There was almost a third try straight away for the Welsh from kick-off again but Jordan James' try was ruled out due to a Craig Kopczak forward pass. But former captain Damien Gibson did get Wales third on the half-hour, finishing off a fine passing move to ground in the corner. PNG had two early second half chances but both were spilled - first by Kevin Prior and the second by Rod Griffin. Wales took advantage of the let-off and attacked in force.
Ian Webster created a chance for Matt James but the Bradford Bulls forward didn't have the pace. However Lee Briers set up Gibson to score in the corner again for his second of the game. Harris kicked well to give Wales a 16-point lead. The Kumuls' were denied a try back minutes later when Cronulla's Tu Maori was pulled back after receiving a forward pass. Wales once again took advantage of this and from the resulting scrum and set, Rob Roberts dived over. Matt James followed him over the line after being set up by Mark Lennon. Harris added the extras on both occasions.
PNG got back into the game on 64 minutes. Tu Maori intercepted on his own 10 metre line. His 60-metre run was halted by Lee Briers, but from the next play, Nixon Kolo went over in the corner. Wales restored the balance three minutes later as Dave Halley finished off a fine passing move involving Mark Lennon and Adam Hughes. Sean Penkywicz added another, which Lennon converted before going over himself straight from kick-off. Adam Hughes converted to bring up the half century.
Iestyn Harris was happy with the win but knows that there's a job to do next week. "I was pleased with the game today," the former Cardiff RFC man said. "But we've got a lot of work to do before next week's game - it's going to be tough to overcome a seven-point deficit. I was disappointed to be injured for last year's Scotland match but this year I've had three or four week's rest so I'm raring to go. It was good to pull on the Welsh jersey once again, it's been a long time."
Mark Lennon, Anthony Blackwood, Luke Dyer, Adam Hughes, Dave Halley, Iestyn Harris, Lee Briers,
Phil Cushion, Ian Webster, Gareth Dean, Matt James, Robert Roberts, Phil Joseph. Subs: Steve Thomas, Damien Gibson, Sean Penkywicz, Jordan James, Aaron Summers, Craig Kopczak, Byron Smith
PAPUA NEW GUINEA
John Wilshere, Tu Maori, Gimapau Keimelo, Steve Franciscus, Michael Mark, Jessie Joe, Keith Peters, Nigel Hukula, Paul Aiton, Trevor Exton, George Moni, Joseph Omae, Rod Griffin. Subs: Rodney Pora, James Nightingale, Nixon Kolo, Charlie Wabo, Kevin Prior, Menzie Yere