DREW DARBYSHIRE | Love Rugby League
PORT MORESBY - Papua New Guinea will welcome Ireland to Port Moresby tomorrow, with the Irish going into the game with nothing to lose.
The Kumuls stole the headlines last weekend on and off the field as they eased past Wales 50-6 in front of a sell-out crowd of nearly 15,000 in the PNG capital.
Meanwhile, Ireland surprised quite a few people as they put in a dominant display against an Italy side full of experience and were 36-12 victors in Cairns.
All the pressure is now on the Kumuls though, as they are the home nation and play all three of their group games in Port Moresby, which is the hotbed for rugby league in PNG.
The Kumuls are used to the intense heat as well, which may favour them. while Ireland, full of players who play in the Betfred Super League, will not be used to playing in such intense conditions.
The game will make very interesting viewing as both teams are level on points in Group C with two points while the Irish Wolfhounds will be full of confidence after beating Italy last time out.
It does seem to depend on whether Ireland can cope with the heat and if they can block out the atmosphere of the PNG crowd.
But the Kumuls will be going into the game with every confidence that they can come away with the two points.
There will be a couple of key battles across the park because the teams are very strong in similar areas like in the backline or in the halves but the key battle will be between Ireland hooker Micky McIlorum and Papua New Guinea duo Kurt Baptiste and James Segeyaro.
McIlorum has become one of the most consistent players in the Betfred Super League and enjoyed another fine season in 2017 with Wigan Warriors. He represented the Wolfhounds at the 2008 World Cup and is one of the most hard-hitting hookers you will see.
Ireland will only play with one hooker in the game but Papua New Guinea play with two and will start with Kurt Baptiste, who is rumoured with a move to Warrington Wolves for 2018, and James Segeyaro who was a star for Leeds Rhinos in the 2016 season and they are a very energetic pair who cause a lot of problems to defences.
Ones to watch
Papua New Guinea had a couple of fine individual performances last week including a fantastic performance from David Mead but the one to watch on Sunday will be Castleford Tigers’ new recruit Garry Lo. He is a powerful winger who finds it easy to unlock defences.
The one to watch for Ireland will be Liam Kay. The winger was brilliant for Toronto Wolfpack and played a big part in helping gain promotion to the Championship with them last season. He scored two for the Wolfhounds last weekend and can read the game really well.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: 1. David Mead (C), 2. Justin Olam, 3. Kato Ottio, 4. Nene MacDonald, 5. Garry Lo, 6. Ase Boas, 7. Watson Boas, 8. Stanton Albert, 9. Kurt Baptiste, 10. Luke Page, 11. Rhyse Martin, 12. Willie Minoga, 13. Paul Aiton. Subs: 14. James Segeyaro, 15. Wellington Albert, 16. Stargroth Amean, 17. Enock Maki. Reserves: 18. Moses Meninga, 19. Lachlan Lam, 20. Nixon Putt, 21. Wartovo Puara.
IRELAND: 1. Scott Grix, 2. Shannon McDonnell, 3. Ed Chamberlain, 4. Michael Morgan, 5. Liam Kay, 6. Api Pewhairangi, 7. Liam Finn (C), 8. Brad Singleton, 9. Micky McIlorum, 10. Kyle Amor, 11. Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook, 12. Oliver Roberts, 13. George King. Subs: 14. Tyrone McCarthy, 15. James Hasson, 16. Joe Philbin, 17. Anthony Mullally. Reserves: 18. Will Hope, 19. Joe Keyes, 20. Matty Hadden, 21. Jack Higginson.
Referee – Matt Cecchin, Touch Judges – Chris Butler & Michael Wise, Video Referee – Bernard Sutton.
Papua New Guinea are the favourites for the game due to them being the host nation as well as a lot of their players being used to the heat but Ireland shouldn’t be taken for granted as a lot of players in their squad are established Super League stars. However, loverugbyleague.com predicts the Kumuls to win by 16 points.