Awesome October Comes to an End

By Daniel Andruczyk

… but November is shaping up to be just as good! Yes, yes I heard the cry when the clocked ticked over to November 01 yesterday that such a fantastic month of international rugby league was over. BUT then I realised that another awesome month of international rugby league is now upon us! So lets recap what we have had in the last weekend in terms of results.

Sp Brewery Pacific Nations Cup

The weekend kicked off with Fiji and Tonga playing each other for the third and fourth positions in the Pacific Nations Cup. In stifling heat once again both teams played what was a pretty entertaining match in front of 3000 or so spectators. By the end of it Fiji showed their flair that was missing in last weeks match to out gun the Tongans. The Tongans should be given their fair wrap though. In tough conditions they did make a real fight of it in the second stanza. Fiji were eventual winners 26-16 to take out the third spot.

The final was between home town heroes the Papua New Guinea Kumuls and the surprise packets of the tournament the Cook Islands with 15,000 faithful packing out Lloyd Robinson Oval. Aside from being crowned Pacific Champions the winners also get the opportunity to play against Australia, England and World Champions New Zealand in next years 4 Nations.

The Kumuls were quick out of the blocks running out to a 10-00 lead very quickly. But in what seemed like someone slipped in the sleeping pills the Kumuls defence became non existent and the Cook Islanders managed to get two tries in to even things up. However that seemed like just what the doctor ordered for the Papua New Guineans to fire up and they managed to run in another two tries to take a comfortable 10 point lead into half time 20-10. David Mead managed to bag two tries as he showed class in the fullback role.

The second half started with excitement. The Kumuls getting successive sets of six after a 40-20 kick. Though the Kumuls were not able to capitalise. However a sickening head clash put a stop  to proceedings for several minutes while Anthony Gilly from the Cook Islands was stretched off. The match from that point started to get quite heated with a few little skirmishes between the players flaring up. Eventually Menzie Yere went over for the first try of the half and the rout of the Cook Islanders seemed to start. David Mead got his hat-trick 55 minutes in with a scintillating run from 50 m after breaking through some soft Cook Island defence. From there it was a Kumuls juggernaut that ran away with the match to win the Pacific Nations, end the Cook Islanders fairytale and a chance to play as one of the four best nations in the world next year. Papua New Guinea won 42-14.

PNC rankings: 1. Papua New Guinea 2. Cook Islands 3. Fiji 4. Tonga 5. Samoa European Nations Cup

In the European Nations Cup this weekend saw the last round of pool games played. Scotland took on Lebanon in Glasgow and Wales played Ireland in Pontypridd.

In what seemed like the second coming of the biblical floods, the heavens opened up over the UK this weekend to make life very wet. In what has been dubbed the” Mudbath Battle” Scotland took on Lebanon in front of 752 spectators in what was a tough and gritty match. The Bravehearts showed more patience in the tough conditions and were able to overcome a spirited Lebanon. At half time it was 14-4. After the break not much changed with Scotland dominating the majority of the half, but some gritty Lebanese defence was able to keep the Scots to one try and also score a try themselves. The final score 22-10.

In the second Match of the tournament Wales took on the Irish at Pontypridd where a very healthy 2143 crowd watched the local heroes win through to the final. I say healthy because there was a big Rugby Union game and soccer game on that weekend as well! It was also a saturated field with the heavens opening up just before kickoff and both teams threw themselves in with great vigour. Ireland raced out to a 12-0 lead but the Welsh clawed them back to level it at the break 12-12. In the second half though it was all Wales who simply outclassed the Irish, who’s luck seemed to have run out. Wales ran away with the match and won 42-12 sealing their place in the final next week against the Scott’s.

European Cup
Group 1
Country P W D L PD PT
Scotland 2 2 0 0 116 4
Lebanon 2 1 0 1 74 2
Italy 2 0 0 2 -190 0
Group 2
Wales 2 2 0 0 110 4
Ireland 2 1 0 1 52 2
Serbia 2 0 0 2 -162 0

So next weeks finals games at Bridgend, Wales, are as follows: The Final sees Scotland v. Wales while the 3/4 playoff Lebanon takes on Ireland. Serbia v. Italy rounds out the weekend for the 5/6 spot.

Gillette 4 Nations

The Four nations this week was shaping up as a real feast of hard rugby league. Australia and New Zealand were looking for points after their draw last week had them down in the lower rungs of the table. Only wins would do to keep their dreams alive. England on the other hand were playing for a spot in the final and France needed the points to stay in contention.

In Wigan over 23,000 turned out to see England take on the Kangaroos. The Australians, led from the front as always by Darren Lockyer, posted the first try within 6 minutes of kick off and despite some spirited English defence their backs were cruelly exposed. Slater and Inglis terrorised the English backs all through the first half. The English forwards fought valiantly and the injection of big Sam Burgess, who is going to South Sydney next year, seem to lift them and give hope. But by half time it was 26-00 to the Aussies and another rout, ala World Cup was looming. There was a massive ‘BOO’ from the crowd as the team went off, the English Faithful sick of seeing the beatings they got.

In what must be the turn around of the year, my reaction to the second half was ‘Am I watching the same England from 20 minutes ago?’ The second half saw England almost blow Australia off the park. I have always said the way to beat Australia is to grind it out against them, make them tackle and defend and work for the ball, its the way to force the errors and get them on the back foot, well someone out there thought the same thing. England’s defence was spectacular, I think Australia only made it to the English line twice in the second 40 minutes. England posted 16 unanswered try’s and if not for some silly handling errors certainly could have won that game and effectively bundled Australia out of the tournament’s finals contention. The Chip kicks proved to be great little tactics, three times catching the Australians napping, one pulled off the try and the other two cam ‘oh so close’ with handling errors from the English. In the end Australia just held on to a 26-16 win, but that score line certainly does not reflect the match being ‘one of two halves’ to quote an old cliché.

Also on Saturday night France took on the Kiwis in Toulouse in front of just over 13,000. France were always on an uphill battle. Having fought such a wonderful match against the English last weekend in Doncaster, this weekend France had to contend with injury, suspensions and swine flue no less! The team played valiantly but were always going to be outgunned by a Kiwi side that were looking to also get their finals aspirations back on the road. The Kiwis in the end put the French to the sword and won 62-12.

Country P W D L PD PT
New Zealand 2 1 1 1 50 3
Australia 2 1 1 0 10 3
England 2 1 0 0 12 2
France 2 0 0 2 -72 0

Next week Australia takes on France in Paris and England have a must win match against the Kiwis in Huddersfield, the home of Rugby League. I am predicting Australian and Home nation wins for a cracking final in Leeds on the 14th.


November is shaping up to be just as exciting with three tournaments being decided. Next weekend the European Nations Cup comes to a close at Bridgend while the 4 Nations continues in Paris and Huddersfield. The 14th sees the Final of the 4 Nations while in Jacksonville, USA, the Tomahawks take on the Jamaicans in the Atlantic Nations Cup. To round off the international calendar the GB Community Lions and France A teams have a few matches against each other. While on the domestic front the French LER continues as does the South African domestic season and rumour has it the Greeks, Maltese and UAE also will have small domestic comps.

All up there is no off season for Rugby League.

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