PNG. A smaller nation when it comes to rugby league but one with a lot of heart and despite being on the receiving end of a 46-point drubbing at the hands of the New Zealand Kiwis, their heart and desire were on display.
In a first half dominated by the Kiwis and led by veterans like Sonny Bill Williams and up and comers like Kieran Foran and Dean Whare, it looked like the Kiwis would amass 70 or 80 points at one stage.
However, the second half was a largely different story, as the Kumuls fought valiantly and evened the contest out in regards to the score and the play on the field and came away with their heads held high.
Whilst the win was a good one, it did come at a cost, with interchange utility Thomas Leuluai suffering a recurrence of a persistent groin injury which might end his tournament.
“Thomas trained well and got through the session,” said Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney.
“We had to give him an opportunity tonight, I think the stakes are too high after this week.
“It doesn’t look good for him and he’s pretty disappointed. He had geared himself for a big tournament.
“It’s a real shame. I know he would have added a great deal to the squad. I’m pretty keen to keep him here, he’s a very valued member of the group.”
In perhaps one of the best World Cup performances to date, back-rower Sonny Bill Williams was everywhere – scoring a hat-trick and recording 10 offloads, 13 tackle breaks and four line-breaks to boot – as he received immense praise from Kearney for his performance.
“Sonny Bill had a lot of touches. He had a real dominant performance,” said Kearney.
“I thought it was a pretty complete performance in that first half. We talked in the week about being focused and disciplined and we were certainly that.
“I made a few changes at half-time and that probably threw the mix of the group out a bit but overall I was pleased.”
For Kumuls coach Adrian Lam, he was proud of the way his side dug deep and never gave in and knows that in a few years’ time, they will get even better.
“I was really proud of them in the first half as well, even though the scoreline was not good,” said Lam.
“We only had the ball for nine minutes in the first half but we hung in there.
It was a great test of character.
“We’re a young side and 15 of them are playing in the Digital Cup. The team is growing and they will develop over the next two years.”