Saturday 24 February 2018 / 07:14 PM


NRL stars certainly added to the spectacle but it was the genuine joy in the crowd that stuck out in the Pacific triple-header on Saturday night in Campbelltown.

Papua New Guinea had a rousing win against a spirited Cook Islands, Tonga snatched a comeback victory against Fiji and England looked slick from the outset in their defeat of Samoa. The results went mostly to plan.

The Australians might have State of Origin but Samoa, Tonga, PNG, Fiji and Cook Islands fans created an atmosphere to match the interstate rivalry.

Supporters flocked out in numbers – the venue hardly had an empty seat, some fans standing on railing to watch during the Tonga v Fiji game – and wore their team jerseys proudly.

Ground staff handed out team flags. It created a special dynamic – you could see where supporters for a particular country sat whenever a try or goal was scored.

There were so many moments that captured interest: Manu Vatuvei’s ferocious charges in his Tonga debut, Sam Burgess’ monster tackle on Anthony Milford, Papua New Guinea’s rousing second-half performance and England’s clinical display against Samoa.

The Paul Barrière trophy – the real World Cup, not a replica – was displayed behind the grandstand. With a new commercial playing in between games on the big screen, it was the last chance for World Cup organisers to get a feel for likely support in November.

RLWC2017 Marketing Manager Kate Dalwood said the marketing approach was to shine a light on some of the less-established teams.

“Off the back of the campaign we’re really looking to profile some of the lesser known teams, so everyone is aware of how even the tournament’s going to be,” Dalwood explained.

“With a change in the eligibility rules, we’re expecting teams who weren’t considered as a threat to the Cup to do really well.”

Wayne Bennett’s England side looked a notch above their 2016 Four Nations campaign in a 30-10 win over a highly fancied Toa Samoa outfit. They were calm and invariably took the right options in attack and defence.

Samoa have some work to do – they looked rattled on a few occasions – and the Kumuls played some free-flowing football in a 30-22 defeat of a spirited Cook Islands side, which will be a tremendous boost when they play at home.

Tonga and Fiji produced an absolute thriller, with Leilani Latu’s 78th-minute try snatching a 26-24 win for Tonga; both sides look to have plenty of offer in the World Cup and will be eyeing off a semi-final spot.

Papua New Guinea 30 (S.Amean 2, A. Wera, W. Puara, N. Putt tries; A. Boas 5 goals) d. Cook Islands 22 (G. Daniela 2, U.Baker, E. Marsters tries; I. John 3 goals)

Tonga 26 (L. Latu 2, M. Vatuvei, D. Tupou, M. Suli tries; A. Hingano 2, T. Lolohea goals) d. Fiji 24 (V. Kikau, J.Storer, B. Nakubuwai, D. Saifiti tries; A. Koroisau 2, S. Moceidreke 2 goals)

England 30 (R. Hall, S. Ratchford, J. Hodgson, J. Graham, J. McGillvary tries; L. Gale 4 goals) d. Samoa 10 (J. Leilua, A. Milford tries; Milford goal)


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About the author

Andrew Marmont

Andrew is a freelance writer, producer and presenter. He writes for Big League, Rugby League World and Inside Sport. His book ‘Their Finest Hour: A History of the Rugby League World Cup in 10 Matches’ will be published in July 2017

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