Mad Monday: There’s a new world order in rugby league

Riley Pettigrew Roar Guru

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    The final four of the Rugby League World Cup has been confirmed with Australia, Fiji, Tonga and England all enjoying wins.

    World No.2 New Zealand were sent crashing out in ugly fashion against Fiji, placing David Kidwell on notice while Lebanon bowed out gracefully giving Tonga a serious test.

    Meanwhile, the Women’s Rugby League World Cup has achieved resounding success during its opening weekend as the Jillaroos asserted their dominance over the competition.

    Australia too good for Samoa as they march on to Brisbane
    The Kangaroos booked their place in the semifinals on Friday night with a dominant performance against Samoa.

    The Australians looked vulnerable early on in hot and humid conditions in the Top End but quickly smoothed out their jitters as they staked their claim with an early try to Valentine Holmes.

    A further try to Holmes as well as Billy Slater’s heroics helped the Kangaroos to gain a stronghold on the game before Michael Morgan blitzed the tired Samoans late in the first term.

    The Kangaroos continued their strong performance, justifying their tournament favouritism with Valentine Holmes scoring a further three tries in the second half. It came much to the delight of the capacity crowd, as Holmes was the first player in World Cup history to score five tries in a game.

    It was a disappointing tournament for Samoa who managed to scrape through on for-and-against following their 14-all draw with Scotland last weekend. The proud Pacific nation were unable to live up to expectations with Ben Roberts failing to provide direction in the middle of the park and their forwards lacking any grunt.

    Lebanon gallant as Tonga continue unbeaten streak
    Tonga have taken a step further in their dream World Cup campaign following their 24-22 defeat of Lebanon.

    Mitchell Moses starred for the Cedars, playing an instrumental role in maintaining a close match, the contest remaining fierce right up until the siren. Lebanon were hard done by with three disallowed tries keeping them on the back foot all game.

    It was the dominance of Tonga’s forward pack in the middle of the park which proved the difference however, Kristian Woolf’s outfit will face a tough battle in the semifinals against England. The sea of red will be expecting a big performance from their halves Tuimoala Lolohea and Ata Hingano as they struggled to take full control of the game a week after shocking New Zealand.

    Despite bowing out in the quarter-finals, there were plenty of positives for Lebanon who have established themselves as a competitive rugby league nation with their ticket to the 2021 Rugby League World Cup already booked.

    Mitchell Moses Lebanon Rugby League World Cup 2017

    (NRLPhotos/Robb Cox)

    Fiji Bati reign over New Zealand in tryless affair
    Fiji have sent world No.2 New Zealand packing with a 4-2 victory in Wellington. It was an enormous upset with the Kiwis failing to encapsulate their form of recent weeks in the windy city.

    It was a stark contrast to Fiji’s performances over recent weeks with no tries scored. The Bati managed to get the better of their opponents on penalty goals in a highly defensive affair riddled by errors and penalties.

    Despite the low scoring, it was a hard-fought battle right from the whistle with both sides displaying glimpse of brilliance at times. In the end though, New Zealand’s spine were unable to take advantage of their opportunities with fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and halfback Shaun Johnson both contained.

    With the toughest task in their history now looming, Michael Potter and the Bati have displayed themselves as a genuine force flying under the radar in their bid to lift the Paul Barriere Trophy.

    They will once again go into the semifinals against Australia as overwhelming underdogs but as they were able to prove against the Kiwis, the Bati don’t need to score tries to play a strong brand of football.

    England through to semifinals but plagued by errors
    Wayne Bennett’s England have booked their place in the semifinals in a scrappy game against Papua New Guinea.

    The Poms were on top of the Kumuls all afternoon with their forwards dominant while Luke Gale ran a tight ship however, neither side presented a case for the Paul Barriere Trophy with a high error count.

    England managed to complete just 56 per cent of their sets at 25/45 while Papua New Guinea were only slightly better at 69 per cent with 22 from 32.

    Jermaine McGillvary was outstanding for England while his three-quarter partner Kallum Watkins was equally impressive and so to Luke Gale however, 20 errors haunted the wall of white.

    England, who went into the tournament as second favourites to Australia, will now face a stern test in Tonga who will test the Lions’ pack. Bennett has a lot of questions to answer as the pressure mounts on England to reach the final.

    Tom Burgess England Rugby League 2017

    (Image: NRL)

    Women’s World Cup shines bright
    The Women’s Rugby League World Cup held in Cronulla has proven to be a success thus far.

    In the opening round, the big three nations cemented themselves with New Zealand dominant in their 50-4 victory over Canada while Australia without some of their big names ran riot over the Cook Islands 58-4 and England showed plenty of structure against Papua New Guinea 36-8.

    On Sunday for the second round, Australia begun the day with a dominant performance over England 38-0 before New Zealand gave the Cook Islands a 76-0 hiding, both nations booking their place in the semifinals.

    The calibre of talent on display over the opening two rounds proves there is enough to spread around a national competition. The NRL are doing great work at nurturing the grassroots level but there has never been a better time to expand.

    The success of the Matildas and AFL Women’s is proof that Australia and rugby league is ready for women’s sport. Teams can be based in Auckland, Brisbane, Canberra, Newcastle, Port Moresby, Sunshine Coast, Sydney and Townsville.

    And how about the Ravens? Could we see Toronto join the Women’s Super League in the future? It’d be a big step forward but would be a massive boost for rugby league in North America.

    Team of the week
    1. Kevin Naiqama (Fiji) – Led from the front in Fiji’s historic victory over New Zealand. His presence proved at the back was felt with 174 metres run.
    2. Jermaine McGillvary (England) – Made his impact on the game with two tries with line breaks helping him to accumulate 232 running metres. McGillvary was equally important in helping set up Kallum Watkins.
    3. Kallum Watkins (England) – Provided a strong combination with McGillvary scoring a double of his own and nearly bringing up 200 metres.
    4. Adam Doueihi (Lebanon) – Strong at three-quarter for the Cedars scoring a try and being denied another. Loomed as a threat all game and kept Tonga contained with 16 tackles.
    5. Valentine Holmes (Australia) – Monumental for the Kangaroos with five tries and three line breaks, smashing records as the green and gold steamrolled Samoa.
    6. Mitchell Moses (Lebanon) – One of the best performances from any player all tournament, Moses was lethal at all times helping to bring Lebanon within two points of Tonga.
    7. Cooper Cronk (Australia) – Cronk controlled the game from the scrumbase, helping to guide Australia to victory with two try assists and combining well with Michael Morgan.
    8. Andrew Fifita (Tonga) – Kept the Tongan engine room running with 193 metres from 18 hit-ups as well as 26 tackles.
    9. Michael Lichaa (Lebanon) – Dynamic out of dummy half and composed on defence, Lichaa helped spark the Lebanese attack and gave Tonga a fight.
    10. Ashton Sims (Fiji) – Dominated New Zealand in the middle of the park, made 142 metres showing no sign of age.
    11. Brayden Wiliame (Fiji) – Denied two tries, Wiliame was instrumental in setting up victory for the Bati helping to gain ground and providing strong defence.
    12. Manu Ma’u (Tonga) – A workhorse for Tonga, Ma’u once again starred with 35 tackles and 126 metres to his name.
    13. Jason Taumalolo (Tonga) – Stepped up when needed in 51 minutes for Mate Ma’a. Nearly cracked 200 metres and tested the Cedars’ defensive line.

    Jason Taumalolo Tonga Rugby League World Cup 2017

    (NRLPhotos/Scott Davis)

    14. Michael Morgan (Australia) – Combined well with Cronk scoring two tries and providing structure for the Kangaroos.
    15. Abbas Miski (Lebanon) – Starred on the wing in Lebanon’s loss to Tonga with a double.
    16. Nelson Asofa-Solomona (New Zealand) – Provided plenty of impact off the bench once again helping the Kiwis to stay in the game.
    17. Eloni Vunakece (Fiji) – Strong up front with 137 metres gained and 32 tackles, laid the platform for the Bati.

    If you could choose from any and every NRL player in the competition, who would you pick in your rugby league dream team? Let us know with our team picker right here, and be sure to share it with all your league-loving mates.

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    The Crowd Says (106)

    • November 20th 2017 @ 6:24am
      Not so super said | November 20th 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

      I don’t think a poor NZ side losing equates to a new world order

      • November 20th 2017 @ 7:22am
        Peter Phelps said | November 20th 2017 @ 7:22am | ! Report

        Fully agree with that statement. The Kiwi’s are a very strong team but they do have a lot of work to do.

        Neither of these world cups is embarrassing. These people are playing with pride and representing their country with the very best that they have. There is nothing embarrassing about that. What is extremely embarrassing is the scores of people whinging on websites about miss matches in skill, farces, payment details, or competition structure. Geez guys, just enjoy it for what it is why don’t ya ?

        As for the Poms reference… POM is a racial slur.

      • November 20th 2017 @ 9:01am
        Ken said | November 20th 2017 @ 9:01am | ! Report

        Not on its own. Even if they had won the last 2 games though, negating that part of the narrative, this world cup has certainly given us Tier 2 sides that are far more competitive than previously. Teams that are capable of having a good day and knocking off a top team – teams that are worthy of players giving up spots in the Tier 1 teams to play where they (may) feel more nationalistic pull.

        Competitively this is a great thing. Economically, the case is not so certain. For all the fantastic spectacle the Tongans, Samoans, PNG & Fiji have provided in the World Cup they provide basically zero in terms of new markets to explore. Having them competitive at the expense of NZ, and causing apathy in their supporter base, is a mixed blessing.

        Still, I think new world order is a fair description – will be interesting to see how it develops from here.

    • November 20th 2017 @ 6:24am
      mikeT said | November 20th 2017 @ 6:24am | ! Report

      Agree with that… How can hidings I every game prove the women’s would cup has been a success … Just shows outside of NZ and Aus women’s rugby league is nonexistent.

      Would also question the new world order theory. If the new world order is based on heritage stacked teams I.e. Tonga, Lebanon and Fiji, while previously strong (or at least capable teams) from wales and France are going backwards that’s a problem.

    • November 20th 2017 @ 7:19am
      Cathar Treize said | November 20th 2017 @ 7:19am | ! Report

      Canada’s win has already got media coverage from major newspapers & TV station CBS.

      The Canadian Prime Minister even sent the ladies a letter of support. The womens tournament needs nurturing & organic growth will occur. Who cares about results. If that was the case the rugby union mens version would have shut down after 1987!

      • Roar Guru

        November 20th 2017 @ 8:53am
        Riley Pettigrew said | November 20th 2017 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Canada is the new frontier for rugby league (and union). The Wolfpack have shown that rugby league has the potential to gain marketshare in the crowded sports market of North America. The Ravens are a breath of fresh air, great performance against PNG. People were surprised after the Canadian women won bronze at Rio! Rugby league is only going to continue to grow with the World Cup held in US & Canada in 2025.

        • November 20th 2017 @ 8:58am
          Tony said | November 20th 2017 @ 8:58am | ! Report

          Why were people be surprised that they won bronze at Rio. Canada along with Eng and NZ have been the best women’s rugby nations for 20 years.

        • November 20th 2017 @ 9:44am
          Fred said | November 20th 2017 @ 9:44am | ! Report

          The addition of a Hamilton and Montreal teams will make Canada a really strong side by the time they host the world cup with the US.

          • November 20th 2017 @ 10:19am
            Fred said | November 20th 2017 @ 10:19am | ! Report

            Mens I should have said.

    • November 20th 2017 @ 9:04am
      Steve said | November 20th 2017 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      I’m not sure it’s a new world order or just a regression in the standards of most teams. Australia finally clicked into gear on Friday but Samoa looked dreadful and were all tournament. PNG haven’t improved much at all especially with ball in hand and Fiji v NZ was the stuff of horror. England looked terrible and there is no way i can see them beating a very strong Tonga. I really hope England can win because I worry about the code over there.

      • November 20th 2017 @ 9:26am
        Fred said | November 20th 2017 @ 9:26am | ! Report

        “an Australian and NZ representative team” – is that the best you can do?

        • November 20th 2017 @ 2:42pm
          PB said | November 20th 2017 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

          It’s true, right.

          NZ, in particular, is now just a feeder team for the islands in between world cups. Of course NZ have had a shocker, they’ve been gutted, manpower and morale since before day 1.

          This chicken will come home to roost when NZ act to stop this happening again, and the islands will be even worse off for it.

    • November 20th 2017 @ 10:18am
      Fred said | November 20th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

      The performances of Lebanon, Tonga, PNG, Fiji and Ireland make the future of international league look bright.

      On the ‘not so goods’ – Samoa failed to impress, but they’ve got the talent to do better in future.
      The US were flogged, but they were tipped from the outset to be the weakest team. The fact that they fielded so many players from their domestic comp is positive.
      Given how many key players they were missing, France didn’t do too badly.

      It will be fascinating to see Canada, the US and Jamaica battle it out for two spots at the next world cup. From Europe, I’m hoping Serbia makes it next time too.

      • Roar Guru

        November 20th 2017 @ 6:25pm
        Riley Pettigrew said | November 20th 2017 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

        You are right, Samoa and France really struggled. The American nations are only going to improve with time, while it didn’t look good on the scoreboard it was nice for the local USARL players to get some big game experience. I’m divided over Americas qualification, it’s between Serbia and Malta in Europe in my opinion.

    • November 20th 2017 @ 10:36am
      herbsandspices said | November 20th 2017 @ 10:36am | ! Report

      As *fantastic as the TV ratings are, can someone explain why the attendances have been so poor (bar the PNG and Tonga-NZL matches)? Not a great look when the quarter finals of the World Cup in an established market are played in front of half empty stadiums.

      Tonga-Lebanon 8309 (capacity 18000)

      NZL-Fiji 12713 (capacity 34500)

      England-PNG 10563 (capacity 29500)

      • November 20th 2017 @ 11:08am
        JoeysStreet said | November 20th 2017 @ 11:08am | ! Report

        I was at the game in Melbourne yesterday and it was very disappointing atmosphere, felt like watching an exhibition game or something. The weather was fantastic so I’m not sure why more fans would not come out on a sunday afternoon.

        • November 20th 2017 @ 11:13am
          JoeysStreet said | November 20th 2017 @ 11:13am | ! Report

          to be honest there was pretty much zero promotion down here

          • November 20th 2017 @ 12:16pm
            Peter Phelps said | November 20th 2017 @ 12:16pm | ! Report

            if you could have less than zero, I would plump for that.

        • Roar Guru

          November 20th 2017 @ 6:28pm
          Riley Pettigrew said | November 20th 2017 @ 6:28pm | ! Report

          Promotion is where rugby league struggles. They’re not going to get good attendance if they don’t promote games. Origin is a shining beacon yet they don’t back it up, not even for a World Cup or Grand Final.

      • Roar Guru

        November 20th 2017 @ 11:58am
        Sleiman Azizi said | November 20th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

        Herbsandspices eh?

        England v PNG was in Melbourne, not exactly rugby league mad country. Even when Australia play, they only get just over 20,000 so a crowd of half that for a non-Australian team is not so bad.

        New Zealand v Fiji, in my view, came off the back of the controversy surrounding the team. Wellington has had some good attendance figures for Kiwi Test matches which have been punctuated by lower figures.

        Tonga v Lebanon was an excellent crowd. It was higher than the average at that stadium after 13 Test matches played there.

        Your highlighting the capacity of the stadiums is disingenuous. Crowd figures have been stable which is to be expected for a niche code like rugby league.

        Sorry herbsandspices, your flavour is off this time. Too much salt…

        • November 20th 2017 @ 12:19pm
          Peter Phelps said | November 20th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

          “England v PNG was in Melbourne, not exactly rugby league mad country. Even when Australia play, they only get just over 20,000 so a crowd of half that for a non-Australian team is not so bad.”

          ….. and the average Storm game is only a wee bit above 16000 and they only sell out that stadium 3 or 4 times a yesr. Even Origin at the ‘G’ couldn’t make 100k so its gotta be the fact that it is AFL territory.

        • November 20th 2017 @ 4:22pm
          herbsandspices said | November 20th 2017 @ 4:22pm | ! Report

          Fair enough Sleiman, you sound extremely defensive and tad aggressive for my post simply commenting on the numbers in the stadium.

          England v PNG was in Melbourne, not exactly rugby league mad country.

          England are ranked number three in the world, there are many English expats living in Melbourne. They are playing an elimination game of the world cup against a team supposedly “wowing” the league community with their exciting style of play.

          The weather was perfect yesterday on Sunday afternoon. No AFL games. No A-League games. No Ashes.

          • Roar Guru

            November 20th 2017 @ 10:27pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 20th 2017 @ 10:27pm | ! Report

            Simply commenting on the numbers in the stadium?

            Okay, sure, I’ll bite.

            As for Melbourne, league is a niche sport in a non-rugby league area. Even the Kangaroos only get 20,000. Why would England get more than what they did?

            You need to accept that league is a niche sport and the attendance figures are more or less stable and representative of that niche.

            Promotion and publicity is an issue for league and perhaps with a better approach there may well have been more in attendance.

        • November 20th 2017 @ 4:26pm
          herbsandspices said | November 20th 2017 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

          This comment has been removed for breaching The Roar’s comments policy.

        • November 20th 2017 @ 4:58pm
          Addersley said | November 20th 2017 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

          Empty stadiums less than a third full for world cup quarter finals… it’s not an issue.

          • Roar Guru

            November 20th 2017 @ 10:32pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 20th 2017 @ 10:32pm | ! Report

            Not empty stadiums, stable attendances.

            The same crowd in a larger stadium is not the best look, for sure, but the tv ratings seemed to be okay and the larger stadiums help cater to the needs of corporate sponsorship.

            You’re imagining a problem when there actually isn’t one.

            • November 21st 2017 @ 5:25am
              Bamboo said | November 21st 2017 @ 5:25am | ! Report

              This comment has been removed for breaching The Roar’s comments policy.

      • November 20th 2017 @ 12:19pm
        Big Daddy said | November 20th 2017 @ 12:19pm | ! Report

        One common denominator here. No Australia.
        The rugby league fans of Australia have voted with their feet. They don’t find the other matches appealing or poor allocation of matches between lower tier countries in Townsville,cairns or Canberra doesn’t work.
        The organizing committee don’t care because the monetizing the bank.
        Anything less than 30k Brisbane next week is a fail and as for Tonga v England in NZ who knows.

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