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Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods emerged as a potential leader of the Australian pack after helping the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII to a win over Papua New Guinea today.
Woods scored two tries and ran strongly as Australian beat the Kumuls 34 – 16 in front of 7000 fans at Kokopo Stadium in PNG.
His performance could not come at a better time with Australia losing Matt Scott and James Tamou from the front row for the upcoming Four Nations tournament.
The Australian team were treated like rock stars as they were given a police escort and cheered by fans lining the roads to the stadium.
Inside, the Kumuls started in traditional fashion with hard running and crunching defence.
Woods scored early but the Kumuls held the Australians to 6 – 0 for much of the first half until late ries by Will Chambers and Josh Mansour took Australia to a 16 – 0 at half time.
Woods again opened the scoring in the second half to stamp himself as the dominant player up the middle.
Australia raced to a 34 -0 lead with tries to Anthony Milford and Beau Scott before the Kumuls scored three tries to the delight of their fanatical supporters.
Australian coach, Tim Sheens paid tribute to the Kumuls and said it was clear that many of the Australian players could do with the run under their belt.
He singled out the performance of Penrith stars Matt Moylan and Josh Mansour and said his senior players had also played strongly.
Sheens hinted that rookie winger, Sione Mata’utia could be in line for a spot in the Australian side for the Four Nations.
“He’s a chance…he is still raw but very impressive,” he said.
Moylan said his first game for the Prime Minister’s XIII was “a tough game”.
“There is still a bit for me to fix up but it wasn’t bad after a few weeks out,” he said.
Mansour said that if he was offered an Australian jersey he would grab it with both hands.
“It is everyone’s dream to pull on the green and gold… but I just have to wait and see,” he said.
Captain Greg Bird, who also had a strong game, also praised Moylan and Mata’ Utia, saying they looked most capable of breaking the Kumuls’ defence.
Two Australians, Brenton Lawrence and Anthony Milford came off with injuries but they are not thought to be serious.
The Australian Four Nations team will be announced on Tuesday.
“We have to make some decisions on Monday,” coach Sheens said.
PM's XIII 34 (Aaron Woods 2, Josh Mansour, Will Chambers, Anthony Milford, Beau Scott tries; Ben Hunt 3, Matt Moylan 2 goals) def. Papua New Guinea 16 (Thompson Teteh 2, Israel Eliab tries; Noel Zemming 2 goals) in Kokopo, PNG.