Leigh Leopards ace Lachlan Lam shone for Papua New Guinea as the Pacific Championships began, with Nene Macdonald scoring four tries and Zane Tetevano returning following his stroke earlier this year.
Lam grabbed a hat-trick of assists as Justin Holbrook’s PNG side ran riot against the Cook Islands, running in nine tries to secure a 46-10 victory in the first Pacific Bowl group game.
The Leopards half-back – who won the Lance Todd Trophy for his showing in their Challenge Cup final win over Hull KR back in August – put in another man of the match showing, with team-mate Edwin Ipape serving the one-match ban he picked up in their Super League play-off defeat to Hull KR.
Towering winger Macdonald, who played for Leigh in 2022 alongside Lam and Ipape, scored four of the Kumuls’ nine tries in Port Moresby. He departed Leeds Rhinos by mutual consent earlier this month having not returned from his paternity leave in the expected timescale.
Rhinos boss Rohan Smith expects the outside-back to remain with his family in Australia, but Macdonald has already been linked with a move back to Super League with Salford Red Devils reportedly interested.
Elsewhere, another ex-Leeds man in Cook Islands ace Tetevano made his long-awaited return to the field against PNG. He suffered a stroke in a Rhinos training session earlier this year, and required heart surgery.
Unable to play again for the club, the prop was eventually released from his contract early in September and allowed to return home to his family. He started in the second-row for the Cook Islands in Port Moresby – his first game since mid-May.
Leigh Leopards ace Lachlan Lam shines for Papua New Guinea in first week of Pacific Championships
In the first-ever Pacific Championships, The Kumuls now top the three-nation Pacific Bowl group, with Fiji set to take on the Cook Islands this coming Sunday (October 22).
PNG will then face Fiji seven days later, and the top two in the group will take each other on once more in the competition’s final, with the winner advancing to the top table and the Pacific Cup for next year in a similar format to the UEFA Nations League in football.
In the cup, also contested by three countries, world champions Australia kicked things off with a 38-12 victory against Samoa in North Queensland over the weekend.
Kangaroos captain James Tedesco crossed for a try, with Penrith Panthers winger Dylan Edwards handed a starting shirt by Mal Meninga having been drafted into the squad as a late replacement for the now-banned Josh Addo-Carr following his involvement in a brawl earlier this month.
Following the same format as the Bowl, Samoa take on New Zealand next up in the Pacific Cup, with Australia facing the Kiwis in Melbourne in the final group game ahead of a final between the top two.
Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, PNG, Samoa, Tonga and the Cook Islands also all have women’s teams playing in the Championships, though not each nation in that category is playing the same number of games, so it’s just pride on the line rather than placings in a group.