Papua New Guinea lamented their first half performance in a 36-6 quarter-final loss to England, but depart the World Cup with their pride intact.
Kumuls coach Michael Marum said they were in trouble after missing so many tackles early, allowing England to power home. Losing their skipper in the second minute also didn't help.
“It started off when we lost our captain David Mead through that first set,” Marum said.
“He was our leader on field so we sort of missed him there.
“The past three games we worked hard on our defence and improved back at home, but playing here [in Melbourne, against a] stronger side against England, we kept missing tackles and I think in that first half, our contact wasn't good enough. We didn't turn up to play at all.”
Marum was proud of how his team kept coming at the more experienced England side throughout the whole match.
“We didn't give up – we played right through to the end,” he said.
“To get this far is a big achievement for the side. With the players we've got with the NRL experience we've got, I thought we did well. We didn't give up. There were some errors in our game that we could have improved, but is something to work on for future games.
“I think everyone will be disappointed today with the result. Back home for the past three weeks, we've been around in the city. I think there was a lot of talk those kids getting out to one day being a national player and a Kumul. They look up to players like David Mead, James Segeyaro and all those guys.”
Segeyaro was confident the Kumuls could continue to improve, but called for more Tests.
“A couple of players have only been playing for three or four years and they've picked it up pretty well," Segeyaro said.
“There's so much natural talent there. I think for rugby league and the nation going forward, [we need to] keep having Tests at the end of the year. I'd like to push for that. Therefore more players get exposed and start playing in the NRL and Super League. It just filters down to the younger generation.
“In saying that, we just need to focus on what happened then. It wasn't the result we wanted. But the whole campaign – coaches, players, staff – has been overwhelming, and is something I will remember forever.”