Papua New Guinea blow Fiji away to win first-ever Pacific Bowl; Leigh Leopards & Leeds Rhinos aces both on scoresheet

Ben Olawumi
Papua New Guinea celebrate a try

Papua New Guinea celebrate a try against Wales at the 2021 Rugby League World Cup

Papua New Guinea have been crowned the first-ever champions of the Pacific Bowl, beating Fiji 32-12 in the final earlier today with Leigh Leopards’ Edwin Ipape & Leeds Rhinos’ Rhyse Martin both on the scoresheet.

In a three-nation group, both sides beat the Cook Islands over the first two weeks of the newly-formed tournament, eliminating them in the process.

Accordingly, when the pair met last weekend in Port Moresby, both knew they were through to the final, so it was just the honour of topping the group on the line.

Castleford Tigers starlet Jason Qareqare scored a try as Fiji swept PNG aside, but it was a much different story today in the final, with the Kumuls dominating on home soil.

Papua New Guinea crowned Pacific Bowl champions after beating Fiji in final; Leigh Leopards & Leeds Rhinos stars both on scoresheet

Justin Holbrook’s side flew out of the blocks at the Santos National Football Stadium, and had raced into a mammoth 26-0 lead by the time the break came around.

Leigh hooker Edwin Ipape – named in the Super League Dream Team this term after a stunning first year amongst England’s elite – was the first to get a try, executing a trademark scoot to throw himself over the line.

That was converted by Leeds’ Martin, who scored the second most points in Super League this year with 194. He grabbed 12 of PNG’s points in the final on a day where reports had circled that he would become the nation’s most-capped player ever. As we understand it, that isn’t the case, with legendary second-rower Max Tiri still some way ahead of him.

As the Kumuls’ first-half massacre of the ‘Bati’ continued in Port Moresby, NRL stars Robert Derby (2) and Alex Johnston also crossed for tries, while Martin added another two points with a penalty conversion.

Things settled down a little come the restart, with Fiji hitting back almost instantly through outside-back Waqa Blake, who was one of five to depart Parramatta Eels earlier this week.

Brandon Wakeham converted, and did the same when Waqa crossed again 10 minutes before the end of the final to cut the deficit to 26-12.

Holbrook’s men would though have the final say, bringing the curtain down on the inaugural Pacific Championships with a late Epel Kapinias four-pointer. Rhinos forward Martin tagged the extras on, and lifted the Pacific Bowl with his teammates minutes later.

If all goes to plan, PNG should now compete in the Pacific Cup alongside Australia and New Zealand come 2024.

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