Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

#RLWC2021: Pacific teams kick off their World Cup campaign

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
RLWC 2021 tournament launch. Photo: Jan Kruger/Getty Images
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Neueli Mauafu | Reporter

The Rugby League World Cup kicked off last weekend and our Pacific presence was definitely felt at the opening ceremony. Five teams from the Pacific are at this year’s tournament competing which are Fiji, Samoa, Cook Islands, PNG and Tonga. 

Toa Samoa opened the tournament with hosts England in front of a packed out Newcastle stadium. England ran a dominant performance outclassing Toa Samoa 60:6.

After three consecutive tries to England in the first half, Samoa clawed their way back before the break through a try by Penrith Panther centre Izack Tago. Leading 18-6 at half time, England completely dominated Samoa in the second spell, running in 42 unanswered points.

Toa Samoa perform the Manu Siva Tau prior to the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Pool A match against England. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

It was a heartbreak start for Toa Samoa, who were also affected by three major injuries and yellow card to playmaker Anthony Milford. They will play Greece on Monday, with the hopes of redemption after their loss to England. 

Players Tyrone May, Hamiso Tabuai Fidow and Bradin Hamlin Uele will likely miss the remainder of the tournament due to injury. Milford will also miss Monday’s match with Greece due to disciplinary citing. 

Fiji Bati also suffered their first defeat of the tournament, going down to the Australian Kangaroos 42:8. Despite scoring the first try of the match through Semi Valemei, Fiji struggled to defend the experienced Australian outfit. 

Fiji Bati and Kangaroos players sing together after Rugby League World Cup 2021 Pool B match. Photo: Gareth Copley/Getty Images

Fiji’s second try came through Panthers youngster Tito Turuva in the second half. Their next fixture will be against Italy on Sunday.

Mate Ma’a Tonga and PNG Kumuls fixture was definitely a contender for the game of the round. Both teams displayed some fierce attacking skills, and were neck to neck at most times of the match, with Tonga just edging their opponents out, 24:18.

PNG opened the try scoring, when veteran forward Rhys Martin split the Tongan defence in half early on in the first half. Tonga responded in amazing fashion, with three back to back tries to Will Penisini, Moeaki Fotuaika and Isaiya Katoa. The scoreboard at halftime was 18:6 in favour of Tonga.

The second half however was a whole different story. The Kumuls made the World Cup contenders work for their win, scoring two amazing tries to level the match at 18 all. With only three minutes left on the clock, Tonga secured the win, through a winning try by Keaon Koloamatagi breaking the hearts of Kumuls players and fans. 

In the last match of the round, Cook Islands held off a late fightback from Wales, winning the game 18:12. The Kukis trailed by four points at half time, before South Sydney Rabbitohs young gun Davvy Moale ignited their comeback with a solo try levelling the scores at 12 all. 

Steven Marsters extended the Kukis lead with an amazing try in the corner, giving them a 18:12 lead. A scrambling defence in the last minute was crucial for Cook Islands, as they held off Wales’ dying efforts for a try that would have sent the game to extra time. Cook Islands will play PNG next Wednesday, while Tonga face off Wales on Tuesday. 

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