What a weekend!

By Daniel Andruczyk

Three major international rugby league tournaments continued or began this weekend: The Gillette 4 Nations, the rugbyleague.com European Nations Cup and the SP Brewery Pacific Nations Cup. Altogether 12 of the worlds top nations have been involved in fixtures this weekend.

The weekends fixtures kicked off with the Gillette 4 Nations. It was a weekend of Local Derby’s in this tournament where neighbours and traditional rivals did battle. Friday night England and France kicked off proceedings with a gritty match at Doncaster’s Keepmoat Stadium. France came out firing with all cylinders shocking the local side with two great tries. The French looked to be on course to cause an upset as they went into the break 12-4 and seemed to match it for the next 20 minutes of the second stanza. But eventually England’s fitness came into its own and led by Myler’s two tries ran in another 5 tries to none. Despite the 3-Lions beating the les Chanteclairs 34-12 they did look quite rusty and will need to improve against Australia next week.

In what was billed the clash of the titans, the Australia and New Zealand match certainly lived up to expectations. Held at London’s Twickenham Stoop on Saturday the RFL gambled on the large ex-pat population to turn up and they did, with over 12,000 antipodeans coming to cheer the World Cup finalists. It was an even match with half time 6-6. The Kiwis showed that they can hold out sustained attacks having to defend six sets of tackles in a row! After the break the Australians raced away to a 14-6 lead, when the Kiwis with some nice, fast passing play were able to hit through the Aussie defence and take a 20-14 lead, but in the last couple of minutes the Kangaroos hit back and levelled it. Final score 20-20 in what was a fast, brutal yet scrappy game at times. The Kiwis showing that 2008 was no fluke and that the Australians are not as invincible as they may seem.

SP Brewery Pacific Nations Cup opened up with the Fijians taking on the Cook Islands in Port Moresby. The Cook Islanders cam through a tough qualifier beating the Samoans 22-20 and were expected to be easy picking fro the Bati. But in what has been the upset of the international season so far the Cook Islanders played gritty yet expansive rugby league and in the last minute were able to cause a boilover winning 24-22. The question now has to be asked, can the Cook Islanders win the PNC!

Sunday the locals took on Tonga. The Kumuls established early on that they mean business running away to a 20-4 half time lead. The heat and humidity seemed to play a massive factor in tiring the Tongans out. The Kumuls struck straight away after the break and really just ran away with the match to win 44-14. The Kumuls showed their world renown flair breaking through the Tongan defence at ease and showed some ruthless form and sent the message that last years World Cup performance was by no means a one off where they almost bead the English. They certainly look like they will take out the PNC.

The rugbyleague.com European Nations Cup had four nations involved. Italy travelled to Beirut in Lebanon where they took on the Cedars and got another lesson in rugby league losing 86-00. Some will say that the Italians are out of their depth and this may be true but no one can deny the passion of their side and also that on such short notice (Italy replaced Russia who pulled out) the Azzuri were able to get everything together. Tizziano Franchini must be applauded for this.

The other match Serbia takes on the Welsh in Smederevo. Serbia are looking for an improvement on their opening match where they lost to Ireland. For the Welsh it will be their first match of the tournament and are looking to stamp their authority,

Exciting news from the United States of America regarding the Atlantic Nations cup. Firstly the ANC has secured a major title sponsor HotelsofJacksonville.com. Thus the ANC will now be officially known as the Hotels of Jacksonville.com Atlantic Nations Cup. Event spokesman Spinner Howland in the press release said “This deal is not only huge for the teams but for the event as a whole…” The Atlantic Nations Cup involves The USA and Jamaica and will be played in Jacksonville.


The second exciting news is that the RFL are sending over Engage Super League referee Ben Thaler to referee the tournament and also hold a clinic with local officials, where at the end he will chose local referees to be the linesmen and in-goal judges. This show some great forward thinking from the RFL and RLEF to help out the Americans. For more information visit http://www.jaxaxe.com .

Next weeks matches

4N: England v Australia in Wigan , France v New Zealand in Toulouse

ENC: Scotland v Lebanon in Glasgow, Wales v Ireland in Pontypridd

PNC: PNG v Cook Islands, Tonga v Fiji both in Port Moresby

On Tuesday I begin a series of blogs on how to fix the international game. I hope you will join in and have your say.

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