World Cup: 5 things we've learnt
1. David Mead is not a goal-kicker
This might be a little harsh on the Titans flyer, but a 25-metre kick in front of the sticks is still a 25-metre kick from right in front of the sticks. They don’t come much easier. Heck, overweight, middle-aged men have pocketed $1000 for booting harder than that on The Footy Show this year!
Granted, there were just 100 seconds left on the clock and his team faced a 9-8 deficit. Whatever – Mead's crucial miss exposed a lack of foresight from coach Adrian Lam and high-performance director Mal Meninga in handing the goal-kicking responsibilities to someone who has rarely kicked a goal in his life. With games against Samoa and New Zealand coming up, this loss seriously dented PNG’s chances of advancing.
2. Italy is the dark horse
It may be only a two-game sample size, but an upset win over England before the World Cup and then a storming finish over Wales in the tournament opener means someone should officially rip the ‘minnows’ tag from the Azzurri, who had almost 1000 games’ worth of NRL experience on the field against the Welsh.
NRL grand final heroes Anthony Minichiello and Aidan Guerra were outstanding for the World Cup debutants. Just imagine if they had Terry Campese and Craig Gower in the halves instead of the little-known Ben Falcone and Ryan Ghietti?
3. Burgeoning Burgess still causing headaches
Monster prop George Burgess was arguably the best player on the field against the Kangaroos; however it was older brother Sam who stole most of the headlines with a reckless stiff-arm knocking Australian second-rower Sam Thaiday senseless. While a one-game suspension has been dished out (rather light, we think), this latest indiscretion further highlights (head) Slammin’ Sam’s onfield issues. Throw in the drama surrounding James Graham’s omission from the England line-up and we bet even coach Steve McNamara’s head is feeling a little sore right now.
4. SBW – he’s only human
It took almost 12 months, but the larger-than-life headline that is Sonny Bill Williams has finally proven that he is, well, made of flesh and bone after all. For someone who has barely made a blemish in his return to rugby league, his bombed try late in the Kiwis’ win over Samoa showed even the game’s elite are prone to brain snaps of the highest magnitude.
Given his controversial last-minute call-up, it hasn’t exactly been a glowing start to the World Cup for the dual international. One thing’s for sure though: the bloke’s got everyone watching him.
5. Aussies remain a world away
Even a 10-point head start to the host nation wasn’t enough to deter the Kangaroos from getting Operation Revenge off to a solid footing against England, outscoring them 28-10 over the final hour of play. Naturally, the Kangaroos are favourites to seize back the trophy from current world champions New Zealand and nothing in their first-up effort gave us reason not to think otherwise.