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Australia beat PNG in a tight PM’s XIII contest



The 2023 Prime Minister’s XIII fixture saw Australia edge out PNG with a 28-18 victory at the sold-out Santos National Football Stadium on Saturday, September 23rd in Port Moresby, National Capital District.


The match went down to the wire, keeping the raucous crowd on the edge of their seats right from the kick-off to the full-time siren. The atmosphere was intense and electrifying.


Australia has maintained its dominance over PNG, winning every PM’s XIII match, since the concept was introduced and established in 2005.


The only time PNG managed to tie the match was in 2007. Australia was leading the game 24-0 at

half-time. However, PNG made a herculean effort in the second half, scoring four unanswered tries to equalize the match. That was one of the best performances PNG has ever produced against Australia.


Coming back to the 2023 PM’s XIII fixture being held over the weekend in the Nation’s Capital, the game started at a high intensity, which saw the two teams compete hard and fight to gain ball possession and field territory in the opening minutes.


PNG scored the first try through Nene McDonal, who grounded the ball from Hamiso Tabuai Fidow’s knock-on. The conversion was added successfully, leaving the scores at 6-0.


After some 10 minutes of intense battle, Australia responded with a try through Murray Taulagi, who managed to swerve past a couple of defenders to score under the uprights. The conversion was nailed successfully, equalizing the scores at 6-points apiece.


The arm-wrestle and physicality of the game continued until right before the stroke of half-time, Hudgson Young scored the second try for Australia to give his team a handy 12-6 lead over the home side.


In the second half, PNG was the first team to score. Thanks to Judah Rimbu, who scooped up the ball quickly from the ruck and kicked a nice grubber, which saw Epel Kapinias dart through the defenders to ground the ball. The kick was successfully converted, locking the scores at 12-12.


The brutal hits and bone-crushing tackles picked up its rhythm in the ensuing sets. Both sides went firing on all cylinders and emptied their tanks, leaving everything on the pitch.


In the remaining 20 minutes of the game, PNG made a silly error in their red zone. Australia capitalized on that mistake and scored an untouched try through a brilliant short-side scrum play. Jordan Khan-Pereira was the beneficiary of that try. Zac Lomax added the extras, leaving the score 18-12.


With momentum and ascendency on their side, the reigning Rugby League World Champions scored their fourth try through Cameron McInnes, who received a flat face-pass from Cameron Murray to ground the ball next to the post, extending the lead to 24-12.


PNG did not shy away from that score-line. They kept their cool and continued to compete. Through resilience and determination, PNG scored their third try through Cruise Ten, who showed brute strength and twisted his body through a few defenders to find the try line, reducing the deficit to 6-points (24-18).


The intensity of the match reached its peak in the dying minutes. Both sides went full throttle, throwing everything at each other. Australia scored their fifth try right on the stroke of full-time, defeating the determined PNG side with a 28-18 victory in a grandstand finish.


The game hung in the balance, but PNG’s silly error made them pay the price. Despite the narrow loss, PNG should be proud of making Australia work for the win. It was a hard-fought battle.


The back line did their job; the forward pack set up the platform upfront; the spine executed the game plan; and the entire team performed exceptionally well. The make-shift PNG side, dominated by tier-two and tier-three players delivered a spirited fight, putting Australia to the sword.


This was the best PM’s XIII match we have seen in recent memory. In the previous PM’s XIII games, it used to be a one-sided affair, where Australia would easily walk over PNG. This time, the underdog PNG outfit rose to the occasion and gave the star-studded Australian juggernauts a run for their money.


PNG has come of age, especially in terms of its growth in the game. PNG will be a force to be reckoned with in the not-too-distant future. The future of rugby league in PNG looks promising. Only time will tell.

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