Agar relieved as France hang on in a nail-biter against PNG

William Barthau

In true World Cup spirit, the entertainment and closely fought contests have continued, with the French side overcoming a spirited Papua New Guinean outfit to win the game by the narrowest of margins – 1 point – taking it out 9-8 after a field goal by William Barthau.

It could have very nearly been the other way around, though, as the Kumuls had a chance to snatch victory from the French had a late penalty goal attempt been successful but without a recognised goal-kicker, David Mead could not slot the penalty home, thus giving the French victory.

Whilst he knows his side needs improvement, French coach Richard Agar was pleased with their overall performance and how they managed to control the game for lengthy periods of time.

“If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have had many complaints had we lost,” said Agar.

“I thought we both played better into the wind and we actually played a good game tactically in the first half.

“We handled the conditions well and we worked really hard, but the way we controlled the game in the latter stages meant we had no chance to build any pressure.”

Victory can mean the world to players and it meant a lot to the French side, as they burst out in their national song in a very heartfelt fashion.

“There are tears in the eyes of some of the officials because I forgot (as Wakefield coach on a full-time basis) that France haven’t won too many Test matches lately,” Agar added.

“As a coach, some of that was heart-attack stuff and to work so hard and think with a minute to go we’re going to lose… The players are very pumped.”

Despite the miss by David Mead, who was obviously disappointed, PNG coach Adrian Lam was not dwelling on that nor blaming Mead for his side’s loss.

“I’m both proud and disappointed,” Lam said.

“If we kick the goal, it’s a great night, so now we have to pick ourselves back up off the ground. We couldn’t convert our opportunities.

“David is devastated. He’s a great young man and we spoke with him about how he’s not to blame. He is a big part of our side. He’s not a week in, week out goal-kicker and we don’t have one. That’s the problem.

“He’s blaming himself but there are a couple of other things we could have done better.”

With a relatively tough group and a game against Samoa coming up, Lam knows that his young side will need victory if they are to progress.

“We’re in a tough group but there is still an opportunity there and things may still swing our way,” former Wigan half-back Lam added.

“We have to play Samoa and win and the team spirit is as good as I have ever seen. We are a young side and I remain excited about that.”

France 9 (Thomas Bosc; Goals: Bosc 2; Field Goals: William Barthau 1) def. Papua New Guinea (Nene MacDonald, Josiah Abavu).

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