By John Davidson

Australia and New Zealand made history taking out the two big trophies at the World Cup Nines today. Australia beat New Zealand in the men’s final, while it was the Silver Ferns who proved too strong in the women’s final. Mitchel Moses was named player of the tournament after finishing with a hat-trick in the decider. Samoa and England did well to reach the semi-final stage, while there was gutsy showings from both Lebanon and the Cook Islands. Just under 16,000 people flocked to Parramatta to watch the games unfold on the Saturday.

It was the Kiwis who drew first blood in the first match of day two, Kiana Takairangi touching down in the third minute. But the Orchids hit back straight away through Ua Ravu to tie it up at 6-6. New Zealand took the lead again when Honey Hireme crossed. Then just before half-time Takairangi grabbed her second, again in the same place on the right wing. The Kiwis were comfortably 14-6 ahead at the break. But in the second half Papua New Guinea roared back into the contest when Janet John barged over from dummy half. However, New Zealand then went 80 odd metres as Hireme recorded her second of the morning game in spectacular fashion. The women in black had the bit between their teeth and Raecene McGregor finished the Orchids off.


France claimed its first win of the World Cup over European rivals Wales.
Arthur Romano put France ahead just two minutes into the game thanks to Hakim Miloudi’s well-placed pass. Lambert Belmas then crashed over to make it 12-0. Wales were baking in the hot sun and the French were cruising. France then scored a fantastic try, a chip and chase from Thomas Lasvenes to score under the sticks. At half-time they were 19-0 to the good and unlikely to be headed. In the second half a mix-up at the back saw Regan Grace pounce to put Wales on the board. But it was not enough as Gavin Marguerite crashed through to put the nail in the coffin for John Kear’s men and end their tournament early.

England failed to continue their winning run at the World Cup against Lebanon in a huge upset. It was the part-time Cedars who took an early lead through a strong carry from Bilal Maarbani. England bounced back when Gareth Widdop touched down to level it at 4-4. Travis Robinson grabbed the lead straight back for Lebanon after a lovely offload from his brother Reece. Then right before half-time Travis Robinson notched another to make it 14-6 at the interval. England had it all to do in the second half and cut the lead down when Sam Tomkins crossed for a bonus try. But they couldn’t conjure a winning try and the Cedars held on for the vital win.

Samoa continued its great run at the tournament against the Cook Islands.
They struck first when Tim Lafai scored four minutes from half-time. They then extended their lead right before the break when a well-bounced kick from Brian To’o fell favourably to Dean Blore. In front 10-0 at half-time, it got worse for the Kukis when Marion Seve sprinted away down the left to score. The Cook Islands responded through John Puna, but couldn’t reel in the impressive Samoans who stayed undefeated.

5 TONGA v FIJI 21-17
Both Tonga and Fiji had to win this game to keep their tournament alive, after suffering losses in their respective opening match. And it was the Tongans who drew first blood, Robert Jennings scoring on the left flank. But the Fijians weren’t giving it up without a fight and Silistino Ravutaumada touched down to tie it up at 4-4. That didn’t last long as William Fakatoumafi barged over to make it 8-4 to Tonga. In the second half they increased their lead when Malakai Watene-Zelezniak crossed in the left-hand corner after Jason Taumalolo’s break. But Fiji gave themselves a chance when Penioni Tagituimua got over the line. Then Maika Tudravu sprinted away for a bonus try right on the siren, securing the first draw at 17-17. The match went to golden try and it was Jennings who grabbed the match-winning four-pointer, eliminating the Bati.

After its opening loss to Australia, the Kiwis had to notch a victory. And they got off to a great start when Jamayne Isaak found Shaun Johnson in support for the opening try. The Kumuls tied it up when Edene Gebbie danced his way through the heart of the New Zealand defence. In the second half the impressive Papua New Guinea poked their noses in front thanks to Nixon Putt. However the Kiwis responded with a fantastic team effort finished off by Jeremy Marshall-King. But then Justin Olam forced his way over on the right. There was still time for Bailey Simonsen to score in the corner, after brilliant lead-up work by Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, as New Zealand avoided a big upset and kept their World Cup dream alive.

The United States gave the Kangaroos an early scare before being demolished.
The Americans started brilliantly, winning the ball back with a short kick-off. And when Reuben Garrick spilled a grubber, Ryan Burroughs pounced for the opening try. Australian hit back immediately through Kyle Feldt and squared it up. But the United States snatched the lead back when Kristian Freed scored after the grubber from Charlie Jones bounced into the post and wrong-footed Kalyn Ponga. Josh Addo-Carr eased some pressure when he used his electric pace to score. The conversion cut the American lead to one-point. Then right on half-time the Kangaroos went ahead, Nathan Brown finishing off a slick team move. They kicked on in the second half, Feldt getting his brace from a kick to the corner. Brown then got his second of the match after a tidy offload from Garrick.  Australia finished up the match with tries to Ryan Papenhyzen and Mitchell Moses.

It was one-way traffic as Australia outclassed England easily. The Jillaroos took the lead two minutes in when Ali Brigginshaw stepped her way over. All the pressure early on was on England and it proved telling. Three minutes later Shakiah Tungai proved too powerful in the corner and scored. Australia made it 17-0 soon after when Corban McGregor touched down. Faye Gaskin came off the field after being on the receiving end of a strong cover tackle. Seconds before half-time the ball was worked on the inside and Jessica Sergis crossed to make it 23-0. In the second half England got the ball rolling when Georgia Wilson got over the line. But it was merely a mirage with Tiana Penitani the next Jillaroo to get on the scoreboard. Penitani then went 100 metres, before being cut down by Kelsey Gentles right on the line. It mattered not as Julia Robinson immediately picked up the ball from dummy half and dived over. There was time for another final try, coming to Isabelle Kelly.



Wales restored some pride and gave England a boost with a fiery victory over Lebanon. Mike Butt crossed but was followed by Cedars player Reece Robinson. Elliot Kear grabbed two tries to put the Welsh ahead, then Lloyd White crossed. Charbel Tasipale scored a consolation try before two players were sent from the field for fighting. Dan Fleming released a flurry of punches, that was returned by Travis Robinson, and both were sin-binned.


England demolished a listless France to book their place in the semi-finals with a great showing. It was a terrible start when Alex Da Costa burrowed through to give France the lead. But Wayne Bennett’s men responded swiftly through Ryan Hall, Blake Austin and Ash Handley to make it 17-4. In the second half they stepped up a gear and Daryl Clark set up Ryan Sutton with a peach of an offload. Handley grabbed his second of the match, then Sam Tomkins made a break and fed Elliot Whitead for the final try.

The Cook Islands needed a win to alive in the tournament while Fiji were playing purely for pride, after back-to-back defeats. But it was the Bati who started well, Maika Tudravu sprinting 50 metres to score. Three minutes later the Kukis got their own back through Anthony Gelling to make it 5-4. In the second half Fiji extended the lead after a cheeky offload put Kevin Naiqama in space. But the Cook Islands kept coming and Tevin Arona gave them hope with a try. Then with three minutes Brody Tamarua barreled over to put the Kukis ahead by two points. They held on to claim their second win of the World Cup.

12 SAMOA v TONGA 24-20
A victory would confirm Samoa’s spot in the semi-finals, but it was Tonga who fired off from the starting blocks through Robert Jennings. Toa Samoa responded immediately when Danny Levi touched down. Their lead didn’t last long as the Mata Ma’a took it back thanks to grubber grounded by Sione Katoa. However, Samoa had everything to play for and Dean Blore used a nice show and go to glide in, putting Samoa 11-10 ahead. Momentum was with them and Ligi Sao crossed to push the lead to 18-10 at half-time. The semi-finals were in sight and Levi confirmed it when he scooted over. With three minutes left Tonga’s Fanitesi Niu touched down, followed soon after by Tevita Pangai Junior, but it was not enough.

The Americans final game of the World Cup was a tough one with a heavy beating at the hands of New Zealand. Ken Maumalo was set up by Kodi Nikorima for the opening Kiwi try. Shaun Johnson extended New Zealand’s lead soon after. Johnson was in fine touch and he set up the third, for  , with a cut-out pass. The United States were barely touching the ball and Bailey Simonsen scored right before half-time. The Kiwis kept scoring freely in the second half, with Jamayne Isaako sneaking over in the right corner. Maumalo got his brace and then it was Reimis Smith who crossed, followed by Maumalo with the tournament’s first-ever hat-trick. There was still time for the Warriors winger to cross again for his fourth and final try.

Australia remained undefeated after easily accounting for Papua New Guinea.
The Kumuls got off to a shocking start when a mistake at the back let Daly Cherry-Evans score in the first minute. The Kangaroos kept up the attacking pressure and Kalyn Ponga then set up Campbell Graham to put them 10-0 in front. The third try came from a simple pick up and dart over from dummy half by AJ Brimson. It was turning into a training run for Australia and Graham got his second, brushing past some weak defence on the wing. In the second half Clinton Gutherson and Jai Arrow continued the rout with tries.

It was a similar script in the women’s match as the green and gold were victorious again. The Jillaroos continued their dominance at Bankwest Stadium and registered their third win of the weekend against the Orchids.  Got the first try of the match on the left wing. Corban McGregor scored the second four minutes from half-time. With Papua New Guinea wilting, Hannah Southwell used pure power to cross and Tiana Penitani touched down out wide. There was no respite for the Orchids and Pentani added another off a simple overlap. Isabelle Kelly was the next to go over for a four-pointer. The Orchids finally managed a response with two minutes left when Elise Albert put her head down and powered through.

England and New Zealand both needed to win this game to book into a place in the final against the Jillaroos. It was the Silver Ferns who took the intiative, Krystal Rota grabbing the opening try after just two minutes. But Amy Hardcastle dived over in the left-hand corner to tie it up. That didn’t last long, as Jules Newman crossed to put New Zealand ahead. England were tiring and Onjeurlina Leiataua stepped through some soft tackles to score next. It was danger signs for England, and right on half-time Honey Hireme dived over for their fourth try. The Kiwis were dominant with a 19-4 at half-time. It only got worst in the second half as Raecene McGregor was the first to cross. England managed to stem the bleeding for a while, until Hireme got over the line again for her brace. New Zealand were toying with them and Nita Maynard was the next to benefit with the last four-pointer.

The Kiwis booked their place in the inaugural Nines final with a straightforward win over a lacklustre England. New Zealand kicked off and went long with England receiving the ball. Jermaine McGilvary picked up a loose ball, after Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad knocked on, raced away 50 metres and looked certain to score. But McGilvary was pulled down centimetres from the line in a great Shaun Johnson tackle. The Kiwis then turned from defence to attack, going the full length of the field as Ken Maumalo crossed. Jamayne Isaako converted to put the Kiwis 6-0 ahead. England had some nervy moments with the ball near the try-line, but eventually managed to move it downfield. Sam Tomkins went to kick the ball but lost it, handing possession over. New Zealand were looking very dangerous and it was Johnson who danced across the field, setting up Isaako in the right hand corner. His conversion was wide, so the score remained at 10-0. England had to be the next to score but poor ball control let them down. Tomkins ran to the right edge and popped an offload to McGilvary, but the winger couldn’t take it. England had to hold out the Kiwis right at the end of the first half with some desperate defence, with Stephen Kearney’s men in charge at the interval. The second half started with a poor restart from England, as they failed to win the ball back. It proved costly as Reimis Smith pounced on a drop ball at the back and touched down. It was proving mission impossible at 16-0 behind. Then McGilvary made up for his earlier error with a well-taken try. George Williams kicked cross-field and McGilvary finished perfectly, brushing past his opponent. Blake Austin converted to give England a chance at 16-6. But it mattered not as Isaako was shown the sideline on the right wing and burned the chasers with pure pace. At 22-6 with three minutes left England were sunk and out of the World Cup.

Australia ensured it would be an all-Antipodean final after beating Samoa 25-8.
The match was barely a minute old when Kalyn Ponga kicked off proceedings, touching down off a Wade Graham pass. Samoa steadied and hit back when Mario Seve crossed from Bunty Afoa’s long pass. But that was as good as it got for the Pacific Islanders. With two minutes left in the half Josh Addo-Carr scored a brilliant solo try, after grounding his own grubber kick with no room to move along the sideline. The Kangaroos had the edge 11-4 at the break. In the second half Samoa struck in the corner through Seve again. The one-handed put down in the left wing was sensational. The conversion was missed, so the Aussies remained 11-8 ahead. With three minutes left Addo-Carr was almost in again, after a kick downfield, but the bounce of the ball beat him. It didn’t matter though as in the next tack;e the Kangaroos worked the ball beautifully, turning it inside for AJ Brimson to cross for a bonus try. The hosts’ appearance in the final was sealed at 18-8. Samoa’s spirit was broken and Tyson Frizell added insult to injury with a big carry, shrugging off four defenders to score just before the final siren.

Neighbours New Zealand and Australia met in the final, a re-run of the 13-a-side 2017 World Cup final in Brisbane. And it was the Kiwis who avenged back-to-back losses in 2013 and 2017 with a spirited display. The Silver Ferns kicked off in the first half and went long. Keeley Davis made a huge break downfield but was hauled down near the line. But the Jillaroos remained patient, found the space in the next tackle and it was an easy try for Tiana Penitani, her fifth of the tournament. But New Zealand snatched the lead when Raecene McGregor barged her way through with a powerful run. The see-sawing nature of the contest continued with a lovely offload from Ali Brigginshaw found Kezie Apps and she crossed. That gave the Aussies an 8-7 lead after the opening stanza. In the second the intensity and physicality continued unabated. The lead changed hands again, when Jules Newman dived over in the corner to put the Kiwis in front. But that lasted mere seconds as Corban McGregor put on the afterburners and scored an amazing try using pure speed. However, the women in black were far from done. Nita Maynard forced her way over soon from dummy half to put the Silver Ferns crucially in front 17-15 with three minutes left. The Jillaroos needed a miracle and were lucky when the Kiwis had a potential try ruled out with 80 seconds left. Australia had one set to score and tried an ambitious kick in behind that failed miserably. Victory was New Zealand’s and they were crowned World Cup Nines champions.

Just like in the women’s event, Australia and New Zealand locked horns in the final. But this time it was the Aussies who emerged winners in the trans-Tasman tussle. The Kiwis started with purpose, a Shaun Johnson kick forcing a goal-line drop-out. They scored the first try with a beautiful tap on from Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad releasing Reimis Smith in the corner. New Zealand didn’t have that 4-0 lead front when Mitchell Moses split two defenders to touch for a bonus try right under the posts. It was converted to make it 7-4. That didn’t affect New Zealand much as Jamayne Isaako added to his list of tries over the two days with a long-range effort set up by Briton Nikora. But it was the Moses show as the Parramatta half-back sped his way on the outside to put Australia 13-10 ahead. In the second half Johnson bombed to Smith on the wing but he couldn’t take it. Kalyn Ponga opened the Kiwis up, but couldn’t finish it off. But in the next set the ball came wide to Kyle Feldt and he reached out to score, though replays suggested he was short. With two minutes left Australia looked safe at 17-10. New Zealand tried to engineer a response but were caught on the sixth tackle with the ball. The Kangaroos ran down the clock, holding on the ball, until David Fifita bust through a hole. He found Moses in support and laid off a wonderful offload for Moses to notch his hat-trick and cement the World Cup trophy for the green and gold.