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Shots & rocks as Australia beats PNG in league


THE AUSTRALIAN Prime Minister's XIII took down a wily Papua New Guinea 36-22 on Sunday, in a rugby league encounter dominated by big hits on field and gunfire outside the Lae stadium.

The tone was set early when the home side responded to an early try to Canterbury NRL flyer Josh Morris by zeroing in with a series of huge hits in defence.

The Kumuls maintained the intensity in front of an estimated crowd of 15,000 packed into Lae's 2000-seat oval.

Canberra's Blake Ferguson also scored for Australia but, with a halftime lead of just 12-0, the Kumuls weren't without hope. However, Australia kicked away shortly after the break.

Ferguson bagged a double and, undeterred by sounds of gunfire outside the stadium as police battled to control some 7,000 people who had missed out on a ticket, Parramatta's Luke Burt scored and converted his own try.

A runaway effort by South Sydney flyer Nathan Merritt and a token conversion by fan favourite and captain Nathan Hindmarsh put Australia comfortably ahead 30-0, before the locals started to rally.

Australian players are idolised in PNG, the only country in the world with rugby league as the national sport.

But sensing the growing disapproval and agitation in the bleachers at the lopsided scoreline, the Kumuls' attack hit back with three quick-fire tries, the first scored after 50 minutes by Dion Aiye.

With each roar of approval from the stands, rocks were thrown over the fence and onto the field by the angry fans outside.  This was answered by a rapid series of gunshots.

Morris kept his cool, completing a double and scoring Australia's final try, which was converted by another unlikely candidate in Souths' captain Michael Crocker.

PNG finished on a high however, when Joshaia Abavu made a last-second dash from halfway to score the Kumuls' fourth try and send the crowd into a frenzy.

Hindmarsh said the game went as expected.  "Always big hits when we're in PNG playing against the Kumuls, but we knew that coming into the game.

"They're known as big hitters. Our front row and our forwards handled that very well.  The gunshots weren't too bad, it was the rocks on the field that worried us more."

Kumuls captain and Cronulla hooker Paul Aiton was very happy with the result.

"This is a stepping stone," he said. "We're building to the World Cup. I'm pretty proud of the boys."

Source: AAP, 25 September


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Joe Wasia

Congrats Kumuls for scoring something rather than nothing. We know in any game one is to win and one has to lose.

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