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One of the biggest upsets in tournament history saw Fiji bundle the Kiwis out early as plenty of other Tier 2 nations also performed strongly.

Samoa's disappointing campaign ends

Labelled "woeful" by Channel 7 commentator Mark Geyer, Samoa showed no sign of taking advantage of the luck they enjoyed in reaching the quarter-finals by turning in a mediocre performance in their 46-0 loss to the Kangaroos in Darwin. 

It was the first time any Samoan side has been kept scoreless in a Test match and the losing margin was their largest since 2000.  Australia looked to be in training mode for much of the contest. 

With many still confused as to how the Samoan side reached the quarters ahead of Ireland in the first place, coach Matt Parish has work to do.

Fellow second tier nations Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea have proven they've gone another step ahead at the international level. 

Parish had his setbacks ahead of the tournament with Australian lock Josh McGuire opting to play for the Kangaroos and injuries to attacking trio Anthony Milford, Sione Mata'utia and Tautau Moga derailing their preparation. 

But there should be no excuses for what was their worst World Cup campaign.  

Holmes flies high into history books

Australian winger Valentine Holmes could have played his way out of Cronulla's fullback spot for next season with a five-try performance against Samoa cementing his status as one of the game's best finishers. 

The 22-year-old now sits alone in the record books as the only player to score five tries in a Rugby League World Cup fixture and could find himself back on the wing at club level following the Sharks’ recruitment of Josh Dugan and Matt Moylan for 2018.

It presents a welcome selection headache for Sharks coach Shane Flanagan.

Holmes re-signed on a long-term deal in 2016 with an emphasis on playing in the No.1 jersey, but his ball-playing ability in the role continues to be questioned. 

Dugan looks to have Broncos-bound centre Jack Bird's vacant right centre position sewn up, while Moylan is set to replace James Maloney (who is off to the Panthers) in the halves.

Holmes is making a case for himself as he continues to shine on the wing… even if it is against his own wishes. 

New Zealand stumble as Fiji pull off major upset

They enjoyed smooth sailing during their opening two games and appeared a side confident of their own ability despite many being against them.

Just a fortnight later it had all came crashing down as the Kiwis suffered their worst exit to a World Cup.

Question marks have been raised over David Kidwell's coaching ability, and with only three wins in 10 clashes it's hard to see how he will retain his position.

The demise of the side was a long time coming. It started with the fallout from ANZAC Test match when Jesse Bromwich and Kevin Proctor were banned from the tournament. An even bigger blow came when Jason Taumalolo turned his back on the country to play for Tonga.

The emergence of young players Joseph Tapine, Danny Levi and Nelson Asofa-Solomona provided some of the few highlights in the Kiwis' campaign, but as was the tone for the Warriors' NRL season, the inconsistencies of key men Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Shaun Johnson were on show.

The pack also lacked any go-forward or dominance – skipper Adam Blair averaged just 39 metres in four games for the tournament.

Tonga survive a scare as Lebanon steal the show

Tonga avoided what would have been another huge upset to reach their first semi-final in a Rugby League World Cup, but it was Lebanon who came out of the clash as the major talking point after a much-improved performance following spirited but heavy losses to big guns Australia and England in the pool matches.

While blowout results can be deemed a bad look, it was evident the tough lessons Lebanon learned during the group stages helped them prepare for the Tongan line-up. If not for a couple of 50-50 calls it could have been a different result on Saturday. 

In a major boost for the Cedars, their quarter-final finish has automatically qualified them for the 2021 World Cup – new territory for the nation after a dogfight to reach this tournament over the last four years.

Lebanon coach Brad Fittler will have also done his chances of landing the NSW State of Origin job no harm.

The Cedars also unearthed some NRL hopefuls that were barely known to the rugby league world before their campaign started.

Papua New Guinea bow out on top

It was always going to prove a tough ask against England, but the Kumuls should not lose sight of the fact they have lifted their game to a whole new level on the international stage.   

While their first clash outside of Port Moresby proved their downfall, their performances provided the best possible platform to develop ahead of the 2021 World Cup.

Prior to their loss to Wayne Bennett's English side, the Kumuls were on a five-game winning streak stretching over the last 12 months – the best in their nation's history. 

PNG's development in the last four years has already been well noted with the addition of the Hunters in Queensland's Intrust Super Cup just one of the key factors.

The inclusions of NRL players David Mead, Nene Macdonald and James Segeyaro also provided a huge help.


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