Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

#RLWC2021: Kukis are eliminated, while Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and PNG advance to the quarter-finals

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Toa Samoa and MMT will meet in the quarter-final of the Rugby League World Cup on November 7. Photo: Sky Sports
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

Final pool matches have concluded at the Rugby League World Cup, with the top 8 spots locked in for the quarter finals matches next week.

Fiji Bati defeated Scotland in their last pool match 30-14, advancing them through to the quarterfinals stage of the Rugby League World Cup. Fiji will meet New Zealand in the quarterfinals.

Penrith Panthers outside back Tito Turuva once again led from the front and was awarded  player of the match after a masterclass performance. There were definitely no feelings hidden between the two nations, as tempers were evidently shown between players. 

Fiji Bati book a quarter final showdown with the Kiwis after their win over Scotland. Photo: RLWC/Facebook

This led to the sin-binning of three players, including backrower Viliami Kikau due to disciplinary issues. It is an area that Fiji interim coach Wise Kativerata hopes to brush up on, as they prepare for their match against the Kiwis. 

“We’ve got to look at how we performed this week as a coaching staff. We know we’ve got the team to play New Zealand, we’ve just got to go Monday, switch on and turn it on, we train and work towards New Zealand”.

Having already secured their spot in the top 8 in round 2, Mate Ma’a Tonga faced their Pacific neighbours Cook Islands for their last pool match. The match saw the return of formidable Tongan leader Jason Taumalolo, who had missed their first two matches of the tournament due to an ongoing suspension.

MMT skipper Jason Taumalolo grabs a double in their final pool match against the Kukis. Photo: RLWC/Twitter

Taumalolo immediately made his presence felt, with a solid performance from himself contributing to a record 92-10 victory over the Kukis. Capping off his stellar return, Taumalolo was awarded the Player of the Match honours, for his two tries and blockbusting runs and metre gains. Parramatta Eels centre Will Penisini scored a total of four tries too, in what is the biggest win recorded for the Tongan team. 

Kukis head coach Tony Iro was honest and upfront about their loss when speaking to the media after the match.

“Very disappointing. I thought we competed really well in our last two games, but I didn’t see this coming. End of the day we didn’t turn up”.

Despite the result, Kukis managed to sneak in two tries in the last fifteen minutes, as a reward for their courageous efforts for the tournament. Forward Tinirau Arona scored for the Kukis second and final try of the match, a fitting finish as he has called it a day for his career. 

After representing Cook Islands over the past years, Arona made the decision to retire earlier this week. With their tournament coming to an end, there are promising signs for the Kukis in the future. With the eligibility laws currently in place, there is hope that Tier 1 stars will make the move over and represent their Cook Island heritage.

Tonga will face their major rivals Samoa in the quarterfinals, after Samoa outclassed France in their final pool match fixture. 

Toa Samoa proved too strong for the French, with a 62-4 win. Winger Taylan May made his first start for the tournament, and immediately got to work scoring four tries.

Jarome Luai once again was a standout for the Samoan team, earning his second player of the match award. 

“I thought our forwards were enormous, particularly in the first 20 minutes,” head coach Matt Parish said.

Toa Samoa now face Tonga in the quarterfinals, in what is expected to be an entertaining match between the two Pacific rivals.

Rounding off the final round of pool matches was PNG against Wales. The Kumuls were victors, winning comfortably 36-10. The win ensured PNG’s spot in the quarterfinals against England. 

PNG ran in a total of seven tries in the game, with Nixon Putt and Jimmy Ngutlik both scoring two tries each. As the rain poured down through the second half, it was clear that PNG Kumuls were in total dominance of their opponents. 

Speaking to the media after the match, PNG head coach Stanley Tepend was happy with their performance. 

Papua New Guinea beat Wales 36-0 and advance to the quarter finals where they will play England. Photo: RLWC/Twitter

“Look we had a plan to do well in the pool stages and get through to the quarterfinals and we’ve done that so we’ll go back and work hard again.”

“We defended more sets in the second half there but credit to the boys they defended their try line there for a long time. So that means they’re playing for each other which is a good sign. We respect the past players and squads but this team really has a good feeling about it”

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