Wayne Cousins, NRL.com
A last minute try to Akuila Uate has given the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII team a 24-18 victory over Papua New Guinea at Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby, today.
Locked at 18-all after 79 minutes, a crossfield kick by five-eighth Lachlan Coote saw Uate and a Kumuls player leap high for the ball. The ball was knocked to the ground before Uate reached out to get his hand on the ball to score. Captain and half-back Scott Prince converted the try to seal victory for Australia.
In a match played in very humid conditions in front of a crowd of around 16,000 passionate rugby league fans, the Kumuls were courageous in defeat after overcoming a 12-0 deficit midway through the first half.
The Kumuls side had no overseas-based players with the current squad selected from the local Digicel semi-professional competition but what they lacked in experience they made up for in determination, taking the game to their more classier and skilful opponents to the very end.
Papua New Guinea started the game strongly with the Australians under heavy defensive pressure for the opening eight minutes. Poor hands cost the Kumuls two trycoring opportunities early on.
Australian centre Chris Lawrence left the field after three minutes with concussion after copping a heavy knock in defending their tryline. He returned to the field 10 minutes later after being cleared by medical staff but only lasted an extra two minutes before playing no further part in the game.
Australia opened the scoring in the 10th minute through a try to second-rower Feleti Mateo after he swooped on a grubber kick by Prince. The half-back converted from next to the posts for a 6-0 lead.
Three minutes later, Coote and lock Wade Graham combined to send centre Michael Jennings on a 60 metre run to score under the posts. Prince converted for a 12-0 lead.
The Kumuls celebrated their first try in the 21st minute when quick hands through the backline saw winger Matthew Puke dive over in the right corner. Half-back Israel Eliab failed to convert from the sideline for a 12-4 scoreline.
Australia extended their lead to 16-4 when winger Beau Ryan crossed in the 36th minute after Mateo busted the line to link up with Jennings. The centre drew in full-back Josiah Abavu to send Ryan over behind the posts. Ryan celebrated his debut try for his country with his now famous ‘Doggies’ act much to the huge roar of the crowd. Prince converted the try to give Australia an 18-4 lead at half-time.
Papua New Guinea got off to a perfect start in the second half when a crossfield kick by Eliab saw the ball bounce for winger Albert Patak to regather to score in the left corner in the 47th minute. Eliab failed to convert from the sideline to leave the home side trailing 18-8.
The Kumuls then had a try disallowed by Australian referee Phil Haines in the 51st minute after he ruled a Papua New Guinea player had knocked the ball forward from a spilt bomb by Australian full-back Darius Boyd.
A few minutes later, Boyd pulled off a trysaving tackle on second-rower David Loko 10 metres out from his line.
Loko did manage to cross the tryline in the 65th minute after Australia allowed the ball to bounce from a bomb into the arms of the Kumuls. Quick hands to the right saw Loko score out wide. Eliab converted from the sideline for an 18-14 scoreline.
The home side then sent their fans into a frenzy when they spread the ball right before centre Richard Kambo used his strength and speed to crash over out wide for an 18-all scoreline. Eliab failed to convert the try with seven minutes remaining.
Papua New Guinea threw everything at Australia in the final minutes as they searched for an historic victory.
Just when it seemed the match was heading for a draw after Graham was held up over the line on the play before, Coote produced his crossfield kick in the 79thminute for Uate to score for a 22-18 lead. Prince converted to give Australia a hard fought 24-18 victory.
Australian Prime Minister’s XIII 24 (Feleti Mateo, Michael Jennings, Beau Ryan, Akuila Uate tries; Scott Prince 4 goals) d. Papua New Guinea 18 (Matthew Puke, Albert Patak, David Loko, Richard Kambo tries; Israel Eliab goal) at Lloyd Robson Oval, Port Moresby, September 23, 2012.
Referee: Phil Haines.
AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER’S XIII:
1. Darious Boyd, 2. Akuila Uate, 3. Michael Jennings. 4. Chris Lawrence. 5. Beau Ryan. 6. Lachlan Coote. 7. Scott Prince (c). 8. Aaron Woods. 9. Kevin Kingston. 10. Tim Mannah. 11. Ben Te’o. 23. Feleti Mateo. 13. Wade Graham.
Interchange: 14. Dan Hunt. 15. Martin Kennedy. 16. Josh McGuire. 17. Matthew Ryan. 18. Nathan Stapleton.
Coach: Mal Meninga.
Assistant coach: Michael Hagan.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA:
1. Josiah Abavu. 2. Matthew Puke. 3. Richard Kambo. 4. Jason Tali. 5. Albert Patak. 6. Dion Aiye. 7. Israel Eliab. 8. Rodney Pora. 9. Charlie Wabo. 10. Gonzela Urakusie. 11. David Loko. 12. Larsen Marabe. 13. Glen Nami. Interchange: 14. Westley Mohukule. 15. Mark Mexico. 16. Enock Maki. 17. Wartovo Puara. 18. Esau Suine.
Coach: Adriam Lam
Assistant coach: Michael Marum / Paul Komboi