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The tournament picture has become a little bit clearer after the second week of the Rugby League World Cup with Australia, New Zealand and Tonga all confirming their place in the final eight.

The big three of Australia, New Zealand and England all enjoyed victories while the passion of Polynesia took centre stage in Hamilton. Meanwhile, Papua New Guinea and Fiji both had wins and Italy kept their slim chances of a quarter-finals finish alive.

Samoa versus Tonga is better than Origin
Samoa and Tonga went to battle in international rugby league’s biggest rivalry with plenty of passion involved.

Fans of Toa Samoa and Mate Ma’a Tonga descended on the city of Hamilton, packing out the ground and providing a brilliant atmosphere. After a pre-game featuring a prayer between the two teams and a combined war cry, the fierce battle lived up to the hype.

Daniel Tupou Tonga

(NRLPhotos)

Both forward packs made significant gains in the middle of the park with Tonga striking first through Michael Jennings. The match was locked in a stalemate with Mate Ma’a leading 14-6 at the break, the sea of red breaking through in the second term.

With Tonga eventually triumphing 32-18 to secure a quarter-finals berth, it highlighted the rivalry between the Pacific islands and its potential to become a mainstay on the rugby league calendar.

As the NRL holds a standalone weekend for State of Origin from next year, the opportunity for a test between Samoa and Tonga to be played in Auckland looms and form a major part of the rugby league season.

Race among big three remains wide open
Australia and New Zealand both posited impressive performances, dominating their opposition while England managed to string a win against Lebanon.

The Australians were pushed early on by France however the host nation proved their world No.1 status leading from the front to record a 52-6 victory.

Wade Graham inspired the green and gold after scoring four tries with Cameron Munster sparking the Australian attack as Jordan McLean, Josh McGuire provided plenty of go-forward.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the tricolours with Mark Kheirallah having a night to remember after scoring France’s lone try in scintillating fashion, going the length of the field.

New Zealand have suddenly transformed into a serious World Cup contender after an impressive 74-6 result against Scotland. It comes just under a year since the two sides drew 18-all at Workington during last year’s Four Nations tournament.

Te Maire Martin and Shaun Johnson showed plenty of composure in the halves with Roger Tuivasa-Sheck making game-breaking gains at the back. The New Zealand pack dominated in the middle of the park with Nelson Asofa-Solomona, Addin Fonua-Blake and Martin Taupau all putting in spirited performances.

Having recorded big wins in both of their matches, New Zealand go into next week’s match against Tonga in good spirits with plenty of confidence in camp.

England made their way into the winner’s circle against Lebanon winning 29-10 in Sydney. It wasn’t the greatest of performances for the Poms with the Cedars putting in a strong showing.

Lebanon were resilient with a strong defensive line that England struggled to crack despite holding the lion’s share of possession. Widdop and Gale failed to captivate any scintillating plays leaving the forward pack to run the show.

Wayne Bennett will be looking for a marked improvement next week against France as England look to confirm their place in the knockout stages.

Melanesian nations one step closer to finals berth
Both Papua New Guinea and Fiji proved too good for their northern hemisphere rivals taking a step closer to the knockout stages.

The Kumuls were on the back foot early on in Port Moresby as Ireland took control of the game early on however, as the home side got their share of possession they began to dominate turning the tables to lead 8-6 at half-time.

The game was held at a stalemate for much of the second half with errors leading to missed opportunities for both sides. The Kumuls got their lucky break late in the game to secure a 14-6 win and take a step closer to a spot on top of Group C.

The Bati were too strong for Wales, outclassing them 72-6.

They displayed plenty of spark in the backline and never gave the Welsh a chance dominating for the full 80 minutes.

Suliasi Vunivalu continued his form with a hat trick while Viliame Kikau was gigantic with a double in a gut busting performance.

Fiji have a mountain to climb though after James Tedesco guided Italy to a 46-0 win over the United States making Friday night’s clash in Canberra a do-or-die affair.

James Tedesco Italy Rugby League World Cup 2017

(NRL Photos / Scott Davis)

There is a need for neutral referees
While the Rugby League World Cup has demonstrated the significant advancements made in the game globally, refereeing has been a serious concern with a lack of neutral officiating.

If international rugby league is to be treated with the respect it deserves, games involving major nations such as Australia, New Zealand and England must be refereed by an independent party.

Instead of placing Henry Perenara in charge of New Zealand versus Scotland and Ben Thaler at the helm of England versus Lebanon, it makes logical sense to have an Englishman or Australian refereeing New Zealand and vice versa.

It is understandable in incidences such as Australia versus England whereby the only neutral referees available are Chris McMillan and Henry Perenara however for all other matches, there are enough match officials available to allow for neutral referees.

Team of the week
1. Roger Tuivasa-Sheck (New Zealand) – Running for over 200 metres, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck had a field day against Scotland. The Kiwis fullback was instrumental making three line breaks and four try assists.
2. Garry Lo (Papua New Guinea) – Lo was at his best for the Kumuls scoring a try and breaking the line on numerous occasions.
3. Michael Jennings (Tonga) – Jennings has cemented his claim as the tournament’s form centre with another two tries to lead the competition.
4. Josh Dugan (Australia) – Josh Dugan had another strong showing against France, scoring a try and running for over 100 metres in Australia’s 52-6 win.
5. Peta Hiku (New Zealand) – Hiku pulled together a hat trick of tries running for over 200 metres.
6. James Tedesco (Italy) – Shifting from fullback due to the absence of Campese, Tedesco made himself at home in the halves running for 216 metres and scoring two tries.
7. Ata Hingano (Tonga) – Hingano discovered new found creativity against Samoa, steering Tonga around the park with two try assists in their 32-18 victory.
8. Russell Packer (New Zealand) – Russell Packer had a field day against Scotland running for 173 metres and scoring a try.
9. Joey Tramontana (Italy) – The Bulldogs young gun was explosive for the Italians in their win over the United States, enjoying a double and providing plenty on defence with 34 tackles.
10. Sio Siua Taukeiaho (Tonga) – Taukeiaho made massive metres for Tonga with 272 metres from 24 hit-ups as well as 21 tackles in a gut-busting effort.
11. Wade Graham (Australia) – The backrower produced a massive performance with four tries and a great defensive display in just his second game for the green and gold.
12. Viliame Kikau (Fiji) – Kikau was enormous in an 80 minute performance that saw him run for 162 metres and pick up two tries. He led the Fijian pack from the front in their 72-6 demolition of Wales.
13. Leeson Ah Mau (Samoa) – Running for over 100 metres and making 32 tackles, Leeson Ah Mau was a workhorse in 80 minutes for Samoa.

14. Cameron Munster (Australia) – Munster stepped into the green and gold No.7 on debut with an inspired performance that saw him orchestrate the Kangaroos’ attack scoring two tries and having a hand in a further three.
15. Jordan McLean (Australia) – McLean was a strong performer in the Australian forward pack, standing tall in their victory over France.
16. Joseph Tapine (New Zealand) – Tapine continued his run of form for the Kiwis playing a key role in the forward pack with a try to his name and some outstanding hit-ups.
17. Manu Ma’u (Tonga) – Ma’u put in an outstanding effort over 80 minutes, scoring a try and running for nearly 200 metres.

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The Crowd Says (93)

  • November 6th 2017 @ 6:54am
    not so super said | November 6th 2017 @ 6:54am | ! Report

    Hyperbole alert – a one off game is better than than an annual series that begun in 1980. Hopefully they can play the game in Samoa next year.
    There was a joke – where do the English Cricket team stay when they tour South Africa? their parents

    Where do the Samoan and Tongan teams stay when the play in Samoa or Tonga? Their great uncles family friend (translation cousin)

    • November 6th 2017 @ 9:14am
      Fred said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:14am | ! Report

      Not a one off game, they’ve met frequently. The annual Pacific Test featuring Samoa, Tonga, PNG and Fiji (this year + Cook Islands and England) has been running for years now.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 12:42pm
        Maestro said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

        In the western suburbs of Sydney – geez even some of them have been to the islands they represent for a holiday.

        “international rugby league’s biggest rivalry? ” who said recreational drugs were safe.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 12:53pm
          Fred said | November 6th 2017 @ 12:53pm | ! Report

          I’m not sure that Apia, where Samoa hosted a test last year, is in western Sydney.

          I’m not sure that Port Moresby, where PNG hosted Fiji, is in western Sydney.

        • Roar Guru

          November 6th 2017 @ 2:35pm
          Sleiman Azizi said | November 6th 2017 @ 2:35pm | ! Report

          Those Pacific Tests were organised by the NRL.

          Of course they are going to stage them in Sydney.

          Maestro, you may need to keep searching in your bag of tricks.

          The ones used so far aren’t working.

        • November 6th 2017 @ 7:25pm
          Justin Kearney said | November 6th 2017 @ 7:25pm | ! Report

          If you don’t like it maestro don’t watch it.

          • November 6th 2017 @ 8:04pm
            AussieIrish said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

            Its Andrew again

            • November 6th 2017 @ 8:40pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:40pm | ! Report

              Yep. Thats him. Dear old andrew.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 5:45pm
              Maestro said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:45pm | ! Report

              I’m just pointing out that’s its not really a true international as the NRL players are either all in or all out. Its like England playing a soccer friendly without any EPL stars. BTW England played a test in the RL capital of the world last week for the first time in how many years and not even against Australia. Stop calling me Andrew.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 5:47pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:47pm | ! Report

              If you dont like it dont watch it maestro. Simples

            • November 7th 2017 @ 6:51pm
              AussieIrish said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:51pm | ! Report

              Only when you stop using the same phraseology and topic tenure, Andrew

            • November 7th 2017 @ 8:36pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:36pm | ! Report

              He chooses to come here and deride the sport. Its his problem.

            • November 8th 2017 @ 9:03am
              Fred said | November 8th 2017 @ 9:03am | ! Report

              Maestro/Andrew, your second comment has nothing to do with your first, so I’m not sure you were “just pointing out” anything.

            • November 8th 2017 @ 2:30pm
              Maestro said | November 8th 2017 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

              Someone has to reply to the overhype about a confected international series. Who is Pettybourne playing for this week…

            • November 8th 2017 @ 2:43pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 8th 2017 @ 2:43pm | ! Report

              Naah they don’t. You just choose to do so andrew/maestro because you have an irrational hatred of the game. Get over it.

            • Roar Guru

              November 9th 2017 @ 10:19am
              Sleiman Azizi said | November 9th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

              Actually Maestro, it is a true international featuring the best players.

              Naturally, the best players are going to be playing in the best leagues and as there are only two professional leagues in the world then it goes without saying that the best players will be found plying their trades in the NRL and RFL.

              It’s a shame that it has taken England so long to play a match in Sydney but that has more to do with organisation and management than with legitimacy or interest.

              Keep searching Maestro.

            • November 9th 2017 @ 1:26pm
              Maestro said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:26pm | ! Report

              “organization and management” pray tell

              The second/third best RL team (NZ and England) in the world have played in Sydney how many times in the last 20 years.

            • November 9th 2017 @ 1:34pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 9th 2017 @ 1:34pm | ! Report

              Who cares maestro. Get a life mate. You are a first class bore.

            • Roar Guru

              November 10th 2017 @ 4:22am
              Sleiman Azizi said | November 10th 2017 @ 4:22am | ! Report

              You’re repeating yourself….

              International rugby league management has been poor until the last decade.

              Club rugby league, in particular here in Australia, has been woefully shortsighted and insular.

              But that’s hardly news.

              And it certainly doesn’t negate the potential of Test rugby league.

              Keep trying Maestro.

    • November 6th 2017 @ 8:32pm
      Londoner said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:32pm | ! Report

      Agree it’s over the top to say it beats origin.
      Origin is probably the best game of rugby in either code that happens regularly.

      To say that it’s a big thing and should be an annual event is not over the top though

      It and the melanisian cup PNG v Fiji should be promoted heavily.

      • November 6th 2017 @ 11:07pm
        In brief said | November 6th 2017 @ 11:07pm | ! Report

        Not sure on what basis you could claim origin is the best game of either code? Most dummy half runs perhaps?

        • November 7th 2017 @ 12:25am
          Justin Kearney said | November 7th 2017 @ 12:25am | ! Report

          He said probably in brief and it was just an opinion.

          • Roar Guru

            November 7th 2017 @ 3:50pm
            BigJ said | November 7th 2017 @ 3:50pm | ! Report

            Anybody else out there missing my top ten articles??? I know I am.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 5:21pm
              BrafDeakins said | November 7th 2017 @ 5:21pm | ! Report

              just be quiet you sad man

            • Roar Guru

              November 7th 2017 @ 6:06pm
              Nat said | November 7th 2017 @ 6:06pm | ! Report

              I asked a while ago mate. Give us something to chat about rather than point out the hypocrisy from all these rah rah boys crying foul over our sport dominating theirs. I checked, not too many league fans commenting on the yawnion pages.

            • November 7th 2017 @ 8:41pm
              Justin Kearney said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:41pm | ! Report

              I cant imagine why anybody would comment on a sport they dislike. Seems pointless.

            • Roar Guru

              November 7th 2017 @ 8:49pm
              BigJ said | November 7th 2017 @ 8:49pm | ! Report

              Actually the opposite, people are more like to whinge about something they disagree with rather than comment on something they agree on.

            • Roar Guru

              November 10th 2017 @ 4:24am
              Sleiman Azizi said | November 10th 2017 @ 4:24am | ! Report

              True that.

              But I disagree.

  • November 6th 2017 @ 8:18am
    Mike L said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:18am | ! Report

    I was at the Samoa/Tonga game and the atmosphere was unlike anything I have experienced before. The crowd (from both sides) were in great spirits and both before and after the game the support for both teams was amazing.
    I would estimate that over 75% of the crowd in attendance were supporting Tonga so if the Kiwis think that next weekends game against Tonga is a ‘Home’ game they had better think again.

  • Roar Guru

    November 6th 2017 @ 8:22am
    Sleiman Azizi said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:22am | ! Report

    Good list Riley.

    Not sure about Munster though. Except for the tries, I didn’t really notice him all that much during the match.

    Feel bad for Ireland but as they say, somebody had to lose that match.

  • November 6th 2017 @ 8:30am
    Oingo Boingo said | November 6th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

    I doubt the Auckland police would want this to be an annual event .

    • November 6th 2017 @ 9:05am
      Cedric said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:05am | ! Report

      yeah, but if it was annual with Kiwis’ and a qualifier during SO the locals would calm down a lot.
      But yeah there was a lot of action in South Auckland prior to and after the game that’s for sure.
      I thought the actions of both teams uniting before and after the game was outstanding, maybe prevented all out war!

  • November 6th 2017 @ 9:52am
    George said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

    Taumalolo over ah mau. Taumalolo made an impact more than ah mau did

  • Roar Guru

    November 6th 2017 @ 9:59am
    Nat said | November 6th 2017 @ 9:59am | ! Report

    The war dance, the passion and the crowd were awesome but let’s not get carried away, it is a great spectacle of lesser quality footy. It is an international game and it would be great to see Aust supporters get behind it like that like we do for Origin. Respectfully, the skill level doesn’t come close to Origin. However, considering there are more people in Sydney than NZ, Samoa and Tonga combined, the bar is very high for the athletes produced from those nations. It would be fantastic to see the Stand alone weekend include these games though.

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