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PNG book finals place with win v USA

By Tony Webeck, ‌‌‌NRL.com

Moses Meninga PNG v USA RLWC
Moses Meninga in action for the Kumuls. Photo: NRL Photos

Watch out England, the Kumuls are coming.

Papua New Guinea completed a clean sweep of their World Cup pool matches with a 64-0 win over the United States of America on Sunday afternoon to advance to the quarter-finals.

Their form has impressed former Kangaroos great Laurie Daley who thinks they have the point-scoring capabilities to knock off England in Melbourne next Sunday.

An eight-minute period early in the first half saw PNG explode out of the blocks to lead the USA 22-0 after just 18 minutes and despite a sloppy second half from both sides, the home side scored five tries in the second term for a 64-point demolition at Port Moresby's Oil Search National Football Stadium.

In recording their third win of the tournament the Kumuls surpassed their 50-6 win against Wales to register their greatest ever World Cup victory and the final 64-0 scoreline was their biggest ever Test score and greatest ever Test win.

There were plenty of individual records to fall by the wayside also, with captain David Mead scoring his fourth try of the tournament to become PNG's greatest World Cup try-scorer, Justin Olam matching Mead's three-try haul against Wales for the record for most tries in a World Cup match for PNG and Rhyse Martin surpassing his 18-point haul in the Welsh game by kicking 10 goals from 11 attempts to own the top two spots for most points by a Kumuls player in a World Cup match.

It was also an afternoon to remember for Lachlan Lam, the son of former PNG skipper Adrian Lam, marking his international debut with the opening try of the game on his way to a first-half double in a sparkling first-up display.

The only potential sour note for PNG was powerhouse winger Garry Lo leaving the field midway through the second half with an ankle injury that Kumuls coach Michael Marum will hope is not so serious as to rule him out of PNG's first quarter-final appearance since the 2000 World Cup.

When the Kumuls last qualified for the knockout stage of the World Cup 17 years ago, they fell to Wales 22-8, but Daley believes there is enough attacking strike in the PNG team to challenge England's ascendancy.

“They're a fighter's chance,” Daley said in commentary for Channel Seven. 

“They can score points and from what we've seen so far England don't score a lot of points.”

As the scoreboard kept ticking over, former NRL coach Matt Elliott also saw enough from the Kumuls to suggest that a place in the World Cup semi-finals is not beyond them.

“We saw Tonga defeat New Zealand and if the English team doesn't prepare properly they're in for a massive shock,” Elliott said.

The Americans had to produce some desperate defence to stop the Kumuls from crossing before the underdogs had their first use of the football and had some good fortune when PNG winger Olam was denied an 80m four-pointer for a knock-on that may have deflected off a USA player.

The capacity crowd didn't have long to wait to begin celebrating points however when a James Segeyaro bust created an opportunity for Lam to score on debut in the eighth minute.

The Kumuls were back on the attack soon after thanks to a kick-off by America that sailed over the dead-ball line and Lam was again heavily involved, releasing Mead on a right-side shift that saw Olam flash across in the corner and a 10-0 lead after 12 minutes.

The next kick-off was fumbled by the Kumuls, but when referee Adam Gee ruled it had bounced back, Moses Meninga burst through into the back-field and found Segeyaro in support for the home side's third try in the space of just six minutes.

With a show-and-go and right foot step, Lam put PNG in front of the clock with his second try in the 17th minute and after a brief period of American resistance a superb piece of ball-playing from PNG halfback Watson Boas saw Rod Griffin crash over and the Kumuls extend their lead to 28 points through 26 minutes.

USA stemmed the bleeding until the shadows of half-time before the electrifying Stargroth Amean burst through the American defence close to the try-line to set up a 34-0 lead at the break.

Even when America threatened to post points early in the second half it instead led to more Kumuls celebrations as Mead pounced on a grubber kick from Junior Vaivai to race 80m and score his fourth try of the tournament, the most by a PNG player in World Cup football.

Watson Boas scored in the 61st minute on the back of a long break by Amean and the half century was reached for the second time in the tournament when Nene Macdonald crashed over in the right-hand corner.

A superb cut-out pass from Lam saw Olam score his second, and after American fullback Corey Makelim was denied by an incredible try-saving tackle from Mead it was Olam who pounced on a USA error to complete his hat-trick.

Papua New Guinea 64 (Justin Olam 3, Lachlan Lam 2, James Segeyaro, Rod Griffin, Stargroth Amean, David Mead, Watson Boas, Nene Macdonald tries; Rhyse Martin 10 goals) def United States of America 0 at Oil Search National Football Stadium, Port Moresby.
Halftime: PNG 34-0
Crowd: 14,800

*This first appeared on NRL.com