The much anticipated clash between New Zealand and Tonga would determine which side would finish atop Group B. Both sides had been impressive in their opening two group fixtures registering two big wins each and scoring seemingly at will.
The venue was a packed Waikato Stadium in Hamilton and the atmosphere was raised several notches as the two sides presented their cultural exchange, a little too close to one another in their shows of strength.
The stage was set for a belter with the bookies suggesting a New Zealand win, as Tonga were without the services of the free scoring Michael Johnson. The winners would likely have a quarter final game against Lebanon with the losers facing Fiji.
Fiji confirmed their World Cup quarter-final match against the loser of tomorrow’s New Zealand v Tonga match, after a 38-10 win over Italy.
Italy entered the match needing to win by a clear 46 points – against a side who had racked up 130 points in their first two games – if they hoped to unseat Fiji from the top of the group and take their quarter-final place.
And the tension clearly showed in a bad-tempered game that saw three sin-binnings in the first half.
Parliamentary Group calls for international recognition of rugby league
The UK’s All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group has called on the General Assembly for International Sports Federations (GAISF) to recognise the Rugby League International Federation (RLIF) as the world governing body of rugby league.
The Group has written to GAISF President, Patrick Baumann, in support of the RLIF’s application. The letter notes that the RLIF has 71 national federations as members; the copyright to the rules of rugby league, nines rugby league and wheelchair rugby league; and the trademark on the men’s and women’s Rugby League World Cups.
Two of last weeks losing sides met in the first of the double-header at the Townsville Stadium. A win would keep their hopes of progress to the semi-finals alive but a loss would signal elimination from the competition after next weeks final game.
Coaches Ciraldo and McDermott both made a handful of changes to their losing sides but the bookies had made Italy, shock losers against Ireland, as firm favourites to take the spoils.
Mark Aston’s Ireland were unchanged from the side which beat Italy, against the odds, last week as they came up against a Papua New Guinea side at a partisan Port Moresby. PNG tinkered with their own line-up but the lack of changes illustrated the importance that both coaches gave to the game.
The Kumuls were strong favourites with the bookies whose physicality was expected to be too much for a brave Ireland side.
The atmosphere at kick off was electric, an eighteenth man for the Papua New Guinea side.
England came into tonight’s game in Sydney with some trepidation against an almost unknown Lebanon side who had performed so brilliantly last week in their win over France.
The injury to Sam Burgess meant that Ben Currie was in the starting line up with Alex Walmsley, now recovered from a virus, given a position on the bench. Giving more of his squad some game time, coach Bennett brought in Ratchford for Lomax in the starting line up, and Williams for Roby on the bench.
It was a carnival like atmosphere as a massive Lebanese following hoped to cheer Brad Fittler’s side to one of the all-time World Cup upsets.
Looking through the group stages fixtures many people will have picked out today’s clash between Samoa and Tonga as one of the must-see games. Two massive sides battling it out in the heat of Hamilton as an intense rivalry hit the World Cup.
Tonga were big favourites after their win in the opening round to beat a Samoa side who lost to New Zealand in their opening World Cup fixture.
The tension between the two neighbouring islands had been building all week and reached a crescendo at kick-off after some amazing pre-match cultural exchanges.
There were plenty of changes for New Zealand as they took to the field at the Christchurch Stadium with the aspiration of sealing their quarter final place against a Scotland side who were well beaten by Tonga last weekend.
Steve McCormack’s Bravehearts side were in danger of early elimination in a tough group where a loss today would see them needing a victory over their final opponents next weekend, Samoa.
Despite these two sides drawing 18-18 the last time they met in the Four Nations last year, the Kiwis were massive favourites for a big win after their confident victory against Samoa over the opening weekend.
Australia started the game as 1000/1 on favourites to beat a France side who were taken apart by an impressive Lebanon in the opening round. Mal Meninga rested a number of players including Cooper Cronk and Dane Gagai, and James Maloney was a late withdrawal due to a ‘personal matter’.
The expected loss for France wouldn’t end their quarter final aspirations, so long as England beat Lebanon tomorrow, but they would then need to beat England next weekend.
There were over 12,000 in the Canberra Stadium to cheer on their heroes.