It was a full house at the Oil Search National Stadium in Port Moresby for game two of the 2017 World Cup as John Kear’s Wales had the toughest of openers against Papua New Guinea.
The warm and humid conditions were perfect for Michael Marum’s Kumuls but a long way removed from the conditions that the Welsh boys are used to. Both sides had a number of players familiar to Super League fans, but many unknown quantities.
Playing on their home soil PNG were massive favourites with the bookies with few commentators giving Wales any chance of taking the points.
There was just under five minutes on the clock when Watson Boas found David Mead who went through a gap in the Wales defence and went twenty metres on the angle to ground. Ase Boas failed to add the conversion from wide right, sliding it in front of the uprights.
On nine minutes Mead found his way to the line for a second time when he took an inside ball from Ase Boas to score under the sticks from ten metres and give Boas a simple looking conversion, but he missed the kick for 8-0. It looked like it was going to be a long and painful day at the office for Wales.
Brute strength was winning the day when Nene McDonald muscled his way to the line to ground over the line after brushing off three attempted tackles. Rhyse Martin took over the kicking duties and slotted the ball between the uprights for 14-0 after twenty-three minutes.
On twenty-six there was a biting allegation made by Wales’ Ben Evans against PNG prop forward Wellington Albert which was put on report by referee Cummins.
The fourth try came on thirty-three when Kato Ottio was fastest to react to a Watson Boas grubber to collect in goal and ground. Martin added the conversion to make it 20-0.
Three minutes before the interval Wellington Albert went through a gap in the tired Welsh defence to ground one-handed by the right upright. When Martin added the conversion it was 26-0 and the Dragons were in all sorts of trouble as they went into the sheds for a John Kear roasting.
There was little subtlety to the Kumuls game plan, it was based on pure muscle and domination of the opposition, but it was super effective against a Welsh side who looked shell-shocked by the interval.
Three minutes after the restart PNG picked up where they’d left off when Martin took an Ase Boas pass duck under three attempted tackles and crash over. He converted his own try for 32-0.
On fifty-two Martin got his second of the night, a short range effort off an Ase Boas short pass. He failed to add the conversion but now it was looking like a humiliating rout for Wales.
Three minutes later and Justin Olam got his second as he grounded a Martin grubber kick by the right corner flag to bring up the forty points. Martin was unable to add the extras from the touchline.
On the hour David Mead became the first PNG player to score a World Cup hat-trick when he grounded a James Segeyaro grubber kick in the left corner. Martin again failed with the conversion but at that stage it didn’t really matter.
Ten minutes from the final whistle Paul Aiton grabbed the tenth try of the game as he walked through a broken Wales defence to score from ten metres out. Martin added the goal to bring up the fifty.
After the full-time hooter had sounded Wales avoided the milling when Regan Grace beat Garry Lo to a pinpoint kick to the corner to ground. Courtney Davies added the extras for a final score of 50-6.
Papua New Guinea dominated this game from the outset and Wales could never get or retain enough possession to make any impression. It was enthusiasm, conditioning and brute force which blitzed the Dragons and gave the home side their biggest ever World Cup victory. It was a terrific start for the Kumuls but a disaster for Wales who came into the game hoping for a far better showing.
Papua New Guinea: Mead (3T), Olam (T), Ottio (T), McDonald (T), Lo, Boas A, Boas W, Albert (T), Puara, Page, Martin (2T, 5G), Griffin, Aiton (T). Subs: Baptiste, Minoga, Segeyaro, Maki.
Wales: Kear, Grace (T), Channing, Gay, Williams, Davies (G), Seamark, Kopczak, Parry, Joseph, Lloyd, Butler, Knowles. Subs: Fozzard, Hopkins, Evans, Morris.
Referee: Ben Cummins.