Mark Aston’s Ireland were unchanged from the side which beat Italy, against the odds, last week as they came up against a Papua New Guinea side at a partisan Port Moresby. PNG tinkered with their own line-up but the lack of changes illustrated the importance that both coaches gave to the game.
The Kumuls were strong favourites with the bookies whose physicality was expected to be too much for a brave Ireland side.
The atmosphere at kick off was electric, an eighteenth man for the Papua New Guinea side.
It was a bone-crunching opening with some massive tackles from both sides as Ireland looked to cash in on having the wind at their backs in the first half.
Ireland got the perfect start to the game on four when David Mead failed to deal with a high kick through the ball bobbled on the try line and Michael McIlorum pounced to ground the ball and give his side an early lead. Liam Finn added the extras for a 6-0 lead.
On fifteen Garry Lo stretched out an arm after intense pressure on the Ireland line to open the PNG account. Rhys Martin hit the left upright as the ball failed to clear the posts and Ireland retained the lead.
PNG were relentless in attack and on twenty-five they took the lead when Nene Macdonald took a pass at head height before stepping left and right to outpace the Irish defence and stretch for the line to score. Martin was again a victim of the wind as his conversion failed to go between the uprights.
Ireland came out for the second half refreshed and had a couple of chances in the opening exchanges of the second half.
The game was deadlocked for seventy-eight minutes after the break with both sides defences bossing the game and frustrating each another’s attack. Both sides had opportunities but some poor ball handling saw them go begging.
PNG won the game two minutes from time when an errant Ireland pass went to ground and was hacked forwards by Watson Boas who won the race to collect the ball and ground over the line. Martin kicked the goal from in front of the sticks to break Irish hearts and seal the 14-6 win.
This was a great win for PNG and puts them in pole position to secure a quarter final place should they be able to beat World Cup whipping boys the USA next weekend. It was a crushing defeat for Ireland and probably signals their campaign, even if they beat fellow celts Wales next weekend.
Papua New Guinea: Mead, Olam, Ottio, MacDonald (T), Lo (T), Boas A, Boas W (T), Albert, Baptiste, Page, Martin (G), Minoga, Aiton. Subs: Amean, Albert, Segeyaro, Maki.
Ireland: Grix, McDonnell, Chamberlain, Morgan, Kay, Pewhairangi, Finn (G), Singleton, McIlorum (T), Amor, McCarthy-Scarsbrook, Roberts, King. Subs: McCarthy, Masson, Philbin, Mullally.
Referee: Matt Cecchin.