Papua New Guinea 36-0 Wales: Kumuls set up quarter-final date with England

James Gordon

Wales’ 22-year wait for a World Cup victory goes on after Papua New Guinea booked a quarter-final date with England.

The Kumuls ran in six tries in a comfortable victory, their second of the tournament, to round off the group stages of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup.

They did the damage in the first half, scoring four tries to quickly diminish the unlikely hope of a Wales upset in the teeming rain in Doncaster.

Kumuls ease to victory

Wales had put up a stern fight against Tonga last week, leading until moments before half time, but coach John Kear will have been disappointed with their start in this one.

Their line defence was broken inside eight minutes when Kyle Laybutt got on the outside of York back-rower Bailey Antrobus to touch down after Edwin Ipape had gone close.

A mistake from the kick-off put Wales under more pressure, and although they soaked it up initially, eventually Nixon Putt crashed over on the last tackle for 12-0 after 14 minutes.

Kear was audibly frustrated at his side’s completion in the first quarter, but they gradually built up some pressure, with two kicks in goal forcing Papua New Guinea to defend.

But after Kyle Evans had gone close, the Kumuls struck with a deadly counter attack as pacey winger Jimmy Ngutlik broke through the middle and raced 70 metres unchallenged for their third try.

Papua New Guinea pushed Tonga to the death in their opening, before a comfortable win over Cook Islands last week, and they were composed and controlling in the first half.

A short pass from Leigh hooker Ipape put Dan Russell over and it was 24-0 at half time.

Wales’ start to the second half was more akin to what they showed against Tonga defensively, but the sheer weight of pressure eventually told. They couldn’t get out of their own end, and it was Putt again who broke their resolve.

But despite that early blow, Wales proved much tougher to break down.

Man of the moment Evans provided a high moment for them, taking a high kick well in defence and powering forward through the middle, and he nearly got on the end of Ollie Olds high kick for a try on 65 minutes.

The conditions didn’t lend themselves to an expansive game and the contest was well fought through the middle in the second half.

A couple of handling errors gifted Wales field position that they couldn’t capitalise on, and it was Papua New Guinea who found the final try of the game. A towering left-foot kick by Laybutt was lost by Evans in the wet, and the bounce favoured the Kumuls and popped up for Ngutlik to score his second.

Papua New Guinea will now go on to face England in the quarter-finals for the second successive World Cup.

Full time: Papua New Guinea 36-0 Wales

Papua New Guinea: Alex Johnston, Rodrick Tai, Nene MacDonald, Justin Olam, Jimmy Ngutlik, Kyle Laybutt, Lachlan Lam, Wellington Albert, Edwin Ipape, Emmanuel Waine, Nixon Putt, Rhyse Martin, Jacob Alick. Subs: Wesser Tenza, Dan Russell, Sherwin Tanabi, Jeremiah Simbiken.

Tries: Laybutt, Putt 2, Ngutlik 2, Russell. Goals: Martin 5.

Wales: Caleb Aekins, Kyle Evans, Will Evans, Elliot Kear, Rhys Williams, Ollie Olds, Josh Ralph, Anthony Walker, Matty Fozard, Gavin Bennion, Rhodri Lloyd, Bailey Antrobus, Joe Burke. Subs: Dan Fleming, Chester Butler, Curtis Davies, Connor Davies.

Attendance: 6,968