Monday Morning Halfback: Rep Round success
The Kiwis are now the benchmark, the Pacific Nations put on a show, the Jillaroo on debut who is a future superstar and the Aussies dominate the Touch World Cup.
Kiwis too good
There will be a lot of introspection into the Kangaroos and what went wrong, but don't for a second let any of that remove an ounce of credit from this New Zealand team. That result makes it three wins on the trot against the Kangaroos, the first time the Kiwis have managed the feat since 1952-53 and only the second time in their history. It was no fluke.
They are a young side carrying no mental scars, expertly led around the paddock by Issac Luke, Thomas Leuluai, Kieran Foran and 2014 Golden Boot winner Shaun Johnson. Johnson has been much maligned recently, but at international level, with the kiwi across his heart, he is a completely different player and fits expertly into the system that Steve Kearney has in place. What the Warriors would do to bottle the magic and bring it back to club land on a week-to-week basis.
Kearney must get a lot of credit for his role as national coach. He has done a tremendous job. His side refuses to be intimidated or take a backward step. This was not an upset. New Zealand are the reigning Four Nations champions and have beaten Australia convincingly in their last three meetings. They head to England at the end of the year and could claim the official world number one ranking. Put simply, they deserve it.
Since an exceptional 2013 World Cup in the UK we have seen the international game continue to grow. The 2014 Four Nations tournament surprised many by how competitive the teams were and the style of footy played, and the weekend's games demonstrated further how good it can be. If this weekend's games are anything to go by, we need more regular international footy.
The Pacific Tests were played with great passion and these teams will only get stronger with more regular Tests. The climax of Samoa v Tonga was everything that international footy should be and more. The effort from Sam Kasiano in the dying minutes to prevent Jorge Taufua the match winning try was one of the best things you'll see all year. You'll struggle to find a better or more dramatic try-saver.
"That tackle typified the spirit and what it meant for these blokes to play here tonight," Samoa coach Matt Parish said.
Parish added that he had "no doubt whatsoever that Tonga, Fiji, Samoa and PNG could compete with England, New Zealand and Australia" if they got to play more often.
"It depends if the International Rugby League [RLIF] wants to have just three teams in the World Cup every year," Parish said after his side held on for a thrilling late win.
"It's a fine line because I understand these guys play for NRL clubs and I really appreciate the Dogs for instance letting Sam [Kasiano] and Frank [Pritchard] play with this group because those guys give it credibility, they lift the players.
"The young guys come into these squads and these teams, they play with guys like that and they go back better players."
PNG want more too
Kumuls coach Mal Meninga stressed the importance of the game to the development of his players.
"I hope [it's an annual fixture], whether it's at Cbus Stadium or other places in the rugby league world. It's a great concept," Meninga said.
"For these guys to play in this type of environment it can only do wonders for their confidence and gives them a real appreciation where they actually stand in the rugby league world when you go into an international match.
"They're getting better all the time and starting to believe in themselves and they watch these players – they watch the Fiji national players play on TV and admire them with awe and now they're playing against them."
Koroibete a serious force
Marika Koroibete was already a very dangerous player when he headed down to Melbourne partway through the 2014 season but his form this year has been stunning. He turned in another powerful performance against the Kumuls with 200 metres, eight tackle busts, two line breaks and two tries. The game is blessed with some exciting and exceptional wingers, but Koroibete must be on the shortlist for best winger in the game.
We told you early last week how Mahalia Murphy gave up her dream of following her hero Cathy Freeman and becoming an Olympian. The talented 21-year-old was well on her way to a glittering athletics career, but that all changed when she got the taste of team sport. Murphy made an instant impact on her Jillaroos debut, scoring a match-deciding hat-trick. Coach Steve Folkes said before the game that she could be in the team for a long time and had the potential to be anything. Well, she's certainly off to a fair start! Murphy was so proud to be wearing the green and gold that she didn't get changed out of her jersey and was seen at Brisbane airport still in her playing gear, wrist strapping and all.
"What a great honour and privilege to have played for our country. Scoring a hat-trick in my debut and to finish it off getting 'player of the match'... I cannot have asked for a better game of rugby league," Murphy said.
South Africa took on Niue
One for the train-spotters amongst us, but the fact this international was streamed live and is still available in its entirety online is a great thing for rugby League. A video posted by veteran scribe Steve Mascord of the Niue war-cry has already had 3,000 views. It was one of the best I've ever seen. For the record, Niue won the clash 48-4.
Malta v Lebanon
A great try just on the stroke of halftime helped Lebanon overcome a slow start to defeat Malta. A little kick off the back of a scrum ensured Lebanon went into the break with a two point lead after trailing 10-6. They would go on to win a competitive match 34-16.
Aussie's Golden touch
Australia has dominated the Touch Football World Cup winning eight of the nine divisions. The men's open team defeated New Zealand 11-2 in the final – the highest winning margin in the history of the men’s open division at the Touch World Cup.
Scott Prince was part of the successful Australian men's 30s side that won their final 9-1 over the Cook Islands. Australia's women's open, mixed open, women's 27s, men's 40s and 50s, and senior mixed sides all took out gold.
New Zealand stopped it being an Aussie clean sweep of the World Cup, winning their first men's 35s title, beating Australia 6-5 in an exciting final.
The World Cup was streamed live on YouTube and was well supported throughout. Well done to everyone involved.