It was a closely fought battle all the way, but the Australian PM’s XIII needed a last minute try from Akuila Uate to win the game, as they defeated Papua New Guinea 24-18 at Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby.
To illustrate the love for the game of rugby league in the region, the 16,000 strong crowd were cheering the home side the entire way home, only to have their hearts broken at the depth, when Uate scored from a Lachlan Coote cross-field bomb.
With the Kumuls overcoming a 12-0 deficit to fight back in rather humid conditions, they were courageous and humble in defeat, with PM’s XIII coach Mal Meninga praising the Kumuls performance, and the way they dug deep when they had to.
“They made it tough for us,” said Meninga.
“If you look at the Kumuls, they played a really structured game and they made us work for it.
“But anyway, we got away with a victory and hopefully everyone was entertained.”
Despite the loss, however, Papua New Guinea is making steady progress in becoming a talented rugby league nation, despite their current team housing no overseas players.
PM’s XIII centre Michael Jennings also recognised the efforts of the PNG side, giving them credit for playing how they did.
“It was a tough battle – they put all they could to us,” Jennings said.
“Full credit to them.”
With the annual trip to PNG now a regular fixture, the game is more than just about playing a single game – with the Australians spreading positive messages galore to the entire Papua New Guinean nation.
“When we come up here and talk about all the special messages, stop violence against women and living healthy lifestyles, you guys here are the future of Papua New Guinea,” Australian coach Mal Meninga told locals.