A stunning first half from Papua New Guinea has paved the way for the Kumuls to upset Fiji 26-14 in their Pacific Test today at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Despite coming in to the match as outsiders following Fiji's brilliant 2017 Rugby League World Cup campaign, Papua New Guinea showed to be a much different side than many were expecting with a blistering opening 40 minutes paving the way for a commanding four-tries-to-one lead at the break.
And while Fiji did their best to bridge the gap in the second half without star winger Akuila Uate, the Kumuls were able to hold firm and consolidate their half-time lead for a deserved victory in the end.
After an expected tight and physical start from both sides, it was Papua New Guinea who opened the scoring after 12 minutes as Watson Boas broke away from his man down the short side to send Junior Rau over on debut. Rhyse Martin ensured it was a perfect start from the Kumuls, converting from the touchline at Campbelltown Sports Stadium to give Michael Marum's side an early 6-0 advantage over Fiji.
Luke Page would double Papua New Guinea's lead shortly after when he spun away from defenders close to the line to score his first international try, with Martin converting from in front for a deserved 12-0 lead.
Willie Manoga looked to have made it three tries in quick succession for the Kumuls when he latched on to the end of a clever chip kick from Lachlan Lam, but his effort was denied on review by the Bunker with the centre ruled to have intentionally tapped the ball to himself over Fiji fullback Kevin Naiqama.
Papua New Guinea would eventually extend their lead beyond two converted tries when Eloni Vunakece was penalised for an infringement off the ball on Boas — allowing Martin to convert the penalty goal.
Outplayed for the first half an hour, Fiji would finally cross through Tyrone Phillips after 33 minutes with the Panthers winger showing great feet and strength to plant the ball down out on the right edge.
Henry Raiwauli's wayward conversion from out wide left the Kumuls lead still in control at 14-4, and it wouldn't take long for Papua New Guinea's left edge attack to restore their lapse in defence with Justin Olam and Rau connecting to give the winger a first-half double in his international debut.
Martin's stunning sideline conversion would extend the lead to 20-4, before James Segaryo's sharp run from dummy half right on the stroke of half-time saw the Sharks hooker race away and link up with Olam, who in turn sped away to score under the posts as the half-time siren sounded — giving Papua New Guinea an incredible 26-4 lead at the break over their more fancied opponents in Fiji.
Joe Lovodua had the chance to get Fiji's comeback underway early in the second half with a clever scrum move putting the hooker over the line — only for his effort to be denied by a double movement.
Fiji would again be denied by the officials in their following set following an accidental offside from a kick, summing up the Bati's frustrations in attack with nothing seeming to fall their way. Eventually, Fiji would get their lucky break with a deflected kick pounced upon by Marcelo Montoya in the in-goal but that try would do little to dent Papua New Guinea's big lead with Raiwauli again unable to add the extras.
After a tough night, Suliasi Vunivalu would cross late on for Fiji to restore further credibility to the scoreboard but it would be too little too late in terms of the result on the night for the Bati.
Papua New Guinea 26 (Rau 2, Page, Olam tries; Martin 5/6 goals) def. Fiji 14 (Phillips, Montoya, Vunivalu tries; Raiwauli 1/3 goals) at Campbelltown Sports Stadium