Papua New Guinea caused a shock upset on this day in 2019 as they eased past Great Britain 28-10 in Port Moresby.
The defeat left the Lions with four defeats from four in their tour of the southern hemisphere. They had also lost twice to New Zealand and once to Tonga in the opening game. Tonga also made history by beating Australia that year.
Wayne Bennett’s side were 10-6 ahead at the break thanks to tries from makeshift winger Blake Austin and hooker Josh Hodgson.
However, a fightback from the Kumuls in the second half saw them score 22 unanswered points. Watson Boas, Justin Olam, Alex Johnston and Nixon Putt scored the tries.
Papua New Guinea: Johnston; Gebbie, Mead, Olam, Amean; Laybutt, Boas; W Albert, Puara, Page, Putt, Russell, Martin. Subs: Ipape, Lo, S Albert, Moses.
Great Britain: Lomax, McGillvary, Hughes, Connor, Austin, Widdop, Hastings, Hill, Hodgson, Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham. Subs: Jones, Thompson, Clark, Walmsley.
IN PICTURES: 2001 Great Britain Rugby League Lions squad
Great Britain embarrassed by Papua New Guinea – talking points
Writing at the time, Love Rugby League editor James Gordon picked out three talking points following the Lions tour…
Bennett’s position now untenable
There is no doubting Wayne Bennett’s achievements as a coach in Australia. He is arguably the greatest ever, but his arrogance and ignorance towards the British game has been woefully exposed on this tour. His squad selections were baffling at best. His attitude in interviews and the way the team has been coached has almost single-handedly brought down what was supposed to be the glorious return of Great Britain. With a World Cup two years away, keeping Bennett would surely have a detrimental effect on ticket sales. Organisers, like the majority of fans, will probably be hoping that he is given the chop.
The end of GB?
It’s been 12 years since the last Great Britain test and maybe this tour has proved that it should have been left in the past. There will never be good enough players that hail from Scotland and Ireland until those countries have a genuine development path that includes semi-professional teams. Even the commendable efforts of Wales are unlikely to provide a top-level group of players that qualify. A lot has been said about Regan Grace. While he wouldn’t have been a token pick, he wouldn’t be a starting winger for GB if everyone was fit.
The problems are beyond Bennett
Clearly there are significant issues with the governance of the game. We stumble from crisis to crisis, year after year, trying to convince the world to buy in to our supposedly great game, that we spend all of our time complaining about. George Clarke points the finger in his analysis on Fox Sports: “He didn’t cut funding to development officers in Scotland and Wales, – while the CEO of the governing body, Nigel Wood, retained a salary of £314,000 – meaning that the chronic underinvestment in the other three nations meant the team was exclusively English.”