PNG v Cook Island RLWC2021

Papua New Guinea kept their dreams of a quarter-final berth alive with a hard-fought 32-16 win over the Cook Islands in Warrington.

Roderick Tai bagged two tries, as the Kumuls notched their first win of the World Cup and handed the Kukis their first loss of the tournament.

The Cook Islands took a 2-0 lead early thanks to a Steven Marsters penalty goal.

Then in the 14th minute, the Papua New Guinea hit the lead through Tai. After some poor Kukis defence, Tai broke through the middle and sensationally ran 70 metres to score.

Nine minutes later Kyle Laybutt dummied and danced his way over to cross and make it 10-2.

In the 27th minute, Mackenzie Yei was sin-binned for a high tackle, taking the Kumuls down to 12 men.

But the Cook Islands lying down, and six minutes later they managed a response when Paul Ulberg touched down in the corner.

Marsters’ conversion cut it to 10-8 at the break.

In the second half Papua New Guinea came out firing, full of energy and enthusiasm.

Just a minute in Rhyse Martin barged over, after a set where his team went impressively nearly the full 100 metres in possession.

He converted his own try to extend the lead to 16-8.

The Kumuls then added another try, Alex Johnston offloading for Tai to grab his second of the night.

At 20-8 Papua New Guinea were in control and dominating proceedings.

Then in the 56th minute, Lachlan Lam touched down, after some brilliant lead-up work and an offload from Justin Olam.

At 26-8 it became a mountain to climb for the Kukis.

In the 60th minute, Anthony Gelling forced his way over the line and scored, with the video referee confirming it. At 26-12 there was hope for the Cook Islands.

However, they made matters worse for themselves in the 66th minute when Reuben Rennie was yellow-carded with a spear tackle on Wellington Albert.

Then two minutes later Olam took full advantage when he dived over out wide, after a quick shift to the left.

The try made it 30-12 and sealed the vital win.

In the 78th minute Kayal Iro crossed for a late consolation try, but it was not enough as Papua New Guinea held on.

Papua New Guinea 32

Tries: R. Tai (15), K. Laybutt (24), R. Martin (42), R. Tai (47), L. Lam (57), J. Olam (69)

Goals: R. Martin (25), R. Martin (43), R. Martin (58), R. Martin (70)

Cook Islands 16

Tries: P. Ulberg (35), A. Gelling (61), K. Iro (78)

Goals: S. Marsters (11), S. Marsters (36)

John is a freelance journalist who has been writing about rugby league for the past decade. He covered the 2013 and 2017 World Cups, has appeared on TV and radio, and been published in The I-Paper, The Guardian, The Sun, The Mirror, League Express, Inside Sport magazine and Big League. He writes regularly for Forty-20 magazine, League Weekly and co-hosts the podcasts By the Balls and Six To Go.