PAPUA NEW GUINEA achieved the greatest moment of their relatively short sporting history, reaching the quarter-finals of the Lincoln Financial World Cup with their third win in a row last night.
On this showing, in a wonderful Group Three game at St Esteve's ground last night, Wales could have a real problem on their hands at Widnes on Sunday. Although Tonga competed magnificently, their defeat means they go home, with France meeting New Zealand in the quarter-finals. That is at least two genuine rugby league playing nations - Papua New Guinea and France - for whom the tournament has done a world of good.
This is surely what the World Cup is all about, Papua New Guinea and Tonga, who played out an enthralling draw in Hull, in the last tournament in 1995, meeting on a balmy evening in the South of France.
After an early exchange of penalties, it was first blood to Tonga, who raised a few eyebrows by playing the 35-year-old former Warrington hooker, Duane Mann, at scrum-half.
Phil Howlett, who had a spell with Bradford last year, moved the ball to the right wing, where Fifita Moala beat three tacklers to squeeze in at the corner, also putting over the conversion to add to his penalty.
It was a worrying time for PNG with their captain, Adrian Lam, watched by the Wigan chairman, Maurice Lindsay, who have signed him for next season, kicking particularly badly.
It was time for his half-back partner, Hull's Stanley Gene, to take a hand in proceedings. He did so to great effect, getting away a perfectly timed pass to send Michael Mondo over for the equalising try, improved by John Wilshere. Three minutes later, Gene scored himself, picking up the loose ball released by Bruce Mamando on the try-line and rolling over to score.
Tonga came close to a possible equaliser when Willie Manu lost the ball over the try-line. Although they had the advantage in sheer size, the Tongans were being knocked back by some fierce tackling from the Kumuls and they went further behind when Tom O'Reilly, recently of Oldham, but whose last English rugby was with the Warrington amateur side, Woolston, sent David Buko through a gap with a beautifully timed pass. …