Castleford Tigers ace Jason Qareqare and new Hull FC man Nu Brown were both on the scoresheet in the dress rehearsals for the inaugural Pacific Championships finals.
Following the results in week two of the first-ever edition of the Southern Hemisphere’s new international tournament, we already knew who was going to be in the finals of both the Pacific Cup & Pacific Bowl.
As it’s transpired, Australia will face New Zealand in the cup final, while Fiji will take on Papua New Guinea in the bowl showpiece, and both of those two fixtures were also played out over this weekend just gone as the group stages were rounded off.
New Hull FC signing scores on New Zealand debut but Australia top Pacific Cup group
With Samoa out of the equation having lost both of their group games, the Kangaroos took on the Kiwis in Melbourne in the third and final Pacific Cup group game.
On what was his New Zealand debut, having previously represented Samoa and started for them last year as they beat England in the World Cup semi-finals, half-back Brown crossed for a second half try.
It proved just a consolation though, with Mal Meninga’s world champions running out 36-18 winners. The new FC recruit‘s try pulled it back to 26-18, before the Kangaroos gave the scoreline a more handsome look with two late four-pointers of their own, topping the group in the process.
The two nations will meet again next Saturday – November 4 – in the Kiwis’ backyard, facing off at 4am (GMT time) in Hamilton for the honour of becoming the first-ever Pacific Cup champions.
Castleford Tigers starlet crosses as Fiji hammer Papua New Guinea in dress rehearsal of Pacific Bowl final
Meanwhile, in the Pacific Bowl, Fiji and PNG will face off next Sunday (November 5) in Port Moresby with a 5am (GMT time) kick-off scheduled.
As we understand it, the winners of that game will be promoted up to the Pacific Cup for next year’s edition of the tournament, similar to how the UEFA Nations League works in football.
The two nations squared off in a dress rehearsal earlier today at the Santos National Football Stadium, with Fiji winning 43-16 against the odds.
Lautoka-born Castleford starlet Qareqare – who spoke to Love Rugby League about his pride in pulling on the Bati’s jersey earlier this year with ambitions of making their next World Cup squad – crossed for the last of their seven tries in today’s win.
Jillaroos beaten for first time in more than seven years
Elsewhere down under, there is no official Pacific Championships group for women’s teams, but games have still been played by the female sides of seven nations this autumn.
Amongst them are Australia, who before this weekend had gone unbeaten in over seven years, winning all 19 of their previous games and being crowned world champions twice in that time.
The Jillaroos extended that run to 19 unbeaten with a hard-fought 16-10 win over New Zealand a fortnight ago, and were targeting 20-in-a-row when they came up against the same opponents yesterday at AAMI Park.
Ricky Henry’s Kiwi Ferns however turned them over on their own patch, 12-6 victors in Melbourne. Tries from Mele Hufanga and Leianne Tufuga inflicted a first defeat on Australia since May 2016.
New Zealand were also their conquerors on that occasion, and excluding the New Zealand Māori, no other nation have beaten the Jillaroos since Great Britain did way back in July 2002.