Papua New Guinea and Toa Samoa will square off their Saturday at Leichhardt Oval as they do battle in the final game of a three-match program for the 2019 Ox & Palm Pacific Test Invitational.
With the Women's Test between Fiji and PNG taking place at 3:40pm followed by the Men's Test between Lebanon and Fiji at 5:40pm, the Leichhardt Oval crowd will certainly be fired up come kickoff for Samoa's clash with Papua New Guinea as Matt Parrish's side look to establish themselves on the international stage once again.
With limited playing history between the two sides, it's tough to gauge a good form line for this game but there's no shortage of key players available across the park — meaning we should be in for a high-quality game of football on the night!
Following the high-profile decisions of Martin Taupau and Jamayne Isaako to represent Samoa instead of New Zealand this weekend, the favourites find themselves suddenly with a stacked side full of NRL talent. Anthony Milford will captain the side from the halves, while Wests Tigers players David Nofoaluma, Michael Chee Kam and Josh Aloiai have all been named for the game.
While Papua New Guinea only have six players with NRL experience in their side, they do have the advantage of picking players from the PNG Hunters side in the Intrust Super Cup in Queensland, and that familiarity does give them a distinct advantage over Samoa. With the likes of James Segeyaro, Lachlan Lam and Rhyse Martin in the side, there's still plenty of talent in the Kumuls outfit, and they certainly won't back down from the challenge of facing a Samoan side on the rise.
Samoa will be desperate to end a run of three straight Test defeats and begin their climb back up the international ladder with a win over Papua New Guinea, who themselves have won their last three Tests (two of which came against Fiji).
Date — Saturday, June 22
Time — 7:55pm AEST
Venue — Leichhardt Oval
TV AND LIVE STREAM INFORMATION
TV — Live via 9GEM and FOX League (Ch.502)
Live Stream — Foxtel Go, KAYO Sports, 9Now, Watch NRL (exc. Australia)
|TOA SAMOA||PAPUA NEW GUINEA|
|Jamayne Isaako||1||Edene Gebbie|
|Jorge Taufua||2||Junior Rau|
|Hymel Hunt||3||Brandon Nima|
|Marion Seve||4||Xavier Coates|
|David Nofoaluma||5||Terry Wapi|
|Chanel Harris-Tavita||6||Eddie Ipape|
|Anthony Milford||7||Kyle Laybutt|
|Junior Paulo||8||Enock Maki|
|Jarome Luai||9||James Segeyaro|
|James Gavet||10||Luke Page|
|Raymond Faitala-Mariner||11||Rhyse Martin|
|Jaydn Su'a||12||Nixon Putt|
|Martin Taupau||13||Moses Meninga|
|Mason Lino||14||Kurt Baptiste|
|Michael Chee Kam||15||Zev John|
|Herman Ese'ese||16||Radley Brawa|
|Josh Aloiai||17||Stanton Albert|
|Fa'amanu Brown||18||Bernard Lewis|
|Matt Parrish||Coach||Michael Marum|
Historically, the pair have a limited playing history between them with just one clash during the 2013 World Cup, where Samoa comfortably prevailed 38-4. The Kumuls are in form, however, with six wins from their past seven matches while Samoa have not won an international fixture since their win over Tonga back in 2016.
KEY MATCHUP — Jamayne Isaako v Edene Gebbie
Brisbane Broncos winger Jamayne Isaako will line up at fullback for Samoa and will be desperate to make a good impression in his debut outing for the side. Primarily a winger in his club football, the switch to the back should open up the field more for Isaako and his combination with Milford should lead to good things for Samoa — meaning Edene Gebbie could be in for a tough night on his hands.
Gebbie has been in good form this year for the Wynnum Manly Seagulls in the Intrust Super Cup with eight tries in 13 appearances this season, and he'll need to rely on his combination with Edwin Ipape to get involved in the contest.
Papua New Guinea have played well during the mid-year Tests and showed last year against Fiji that they are more than capable of springing an upset, but this game might be a bridge too far. Samoa are a far stronger side than they have been in recent years and when coupled with their determination to bounce back from a disappointing World Cup campaign and defeat to Tonga last year, it's hard to see them not running out winners here. The Kumuls' spine is far better than what many are giving it credit for and they should keep the underdogs in the contest, but Samoa simply have too much firepower up front and could run away with this one.
Samoa by 8.