The first Rugby League World Cup 9s got off to an exciting start on Friday.
France and Lebanon got the tournament underway with a game of two halves, with the Cedars prevailing 12-8.
They led 12-0 at half time in the contest, Bilal Maarbani scoring a brace of tries. Paul Marcon and Gavin Marguerite dragged the French back in to the game in the second of the nine-minute halves, but they didn’t have enough to complete the comeback.
France 8-12 Lebanon
Up next were England’s women, who saw off an early rally from Papua New Guinea orchids to come out 25-4 winners.
Rhiannon Marshall scored the first bonus zone, five-point try of the tournament when she stormed under the posts off Faye Gaskin’s pass, and there were further scores from Caitlin Beevers, Emily Rudge and Leah Burke, as well as a second for Marshall, as England made the most of a tiring Orchids defence.
England 25-4 Papua New Guinea (women)
England’s men were similarly impressive, with Sam Tomkins and James Graham starring in a rout of Wales.
Jake Connor got a brace of tries, with Mike Butt getting Wales on the scoresheet late on.
England 25-4 Wales
The Cook Islands caused an upset as they thumped a stunned Tonga 30-7.
Playing under the Tonga Invitational banner following the off-field politics at the Tongan NRL, they had no answer to the Cook Islands who scored three tries in the first half.
Kayal Iro scored in the opening minute and then added a second after four minutes, with further tries from Reubenn Rennie, Steven Marsters, Aaron Teroi and Anthony Gelling.
Tonga 7-30 Cook Islands
There was a high scoring encounter between Samoa and Fiji, with Samoa eventually running out 32-17 winners.
Samoa had a 17-4 lead at half time, with tries at either end of the half from Jarome Luai and Brian To’o.
To’o’s second and David Nofoaluma put the game beyond Fiji, despite Maika Sivo’s late score.
Samoa 32-17 Fiji
The Jillaroos showed their class in a 22-8 win over New Zealand in the women’s pool.
Captain Ali Brigginshaw was the star of the show, helping to create Tiana Penitani’s first try. It was 15-0 at half time and they saw out the second half with ease.
Australia 22-8 New Zealand (women)
Australia’s men did the same to their Kiwi counterparts, with David Fifita having the impact that many predicted he would in this format of the game.
Wade Graham was key for the Kangaroos though, and he formed a potentially devastating partnership with Josh Addo-Carr, who raced on to a Graham kick for the pick of the tries.
Australia 25-12 New Zealand
In the final game of the first day, Papua New Guinea defeated USA 27-10.
A mistake off the kick-off set the tone for the Hawks, who struggled to contend with the Kumuls, despite taking the lead through Junior Vaivai midway through the first half.
Papua New Guinea 27-10 USA
Fixtures for Saturday:
New Zealand Women vs Papua New Guinea Women (1.30am)
France vs Wales (1.55am)
England vs Lebanon (2.20am)
Samoa vs Cook Islands (2.45am)
Tonga vs Fiji (3.10am)
New Zealand vs Papua New Guinea (3.45am)
Australia vs USA (4.10am)
Australia Women vs England Women (4.35am)
Lebanon vs Wales (5am)
England vs France (5.25am)
Fiji vs Cook Islands (6am)
Tonga vs Samoa (6.25am)
New Zealand vs USA (6.50am)
Australia vs Papua New Guinea (7.15am)
Australia Women vs Papua New Guinea Women (7.40am)
New Zealand Women vs England Women (8.05am)
Men’s semi-finals (8.55am and 9.20am)
Women’s final (9.45am)
Men’s final (11am)