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Holbrook tastes baptism of fire in a narrow loss

The newly appointed PNG LNG Kumuls Head Coach, Justin Holbrook tasted his first defeat as the rookie coach of the PNG Prime Minister’s XIII side, going down to the Australian PM’s XIII outfit in a narrow 28-18 loss over the weekend (September 23rd ) at the sold-out Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby, National Capital District.

Australia boasted plenty of NRL stars, but the make-shift PNG side mostly consisting of second and third-tier players, stood up against the star-studded Australian behemoth.

Gone were the days when the Australians used to dominate and walk over the Papua New Guineans, but not this time around. Though PNG had a short turnaround in their preparations, they worked together as a team, putting up a gallant fight against the might of the Aussies.

Everyone expected a one-sided affair, as is usual, but the determined 17-strong red, black, and gold army rose to the occasion and gave the formidable reigning Rugby League World Champions a run for their money.

Rugby League experts, analysts, pundits, commentators, and fans alike anticipated a walk-in-the-park footy. However, most of the critics and doubters were stunned to see PNG put Australia to the sword, making them work hard to earn the victory.

The under-strength PNG side almost pulled off an upset over the Australian juggernauts on home soil in front of the packed spiritual home of rugby league. The voodoo was nearly broken, sending chills down the spines of the fans and rupturing the state-of-the-art stadium.

Justin Holbrook was impressed with his side’s courageous effort to stay in the fight and compete aggressively until the hooter sounded for the 80-minute battle.

“Really proud of the effort. Obviously, near the end, we could have come up and drawn the game, which would have been great for us. I am disappointed in the way it finished, but really proud of how well the boys tried. We pushed the Aussies all the way, so it was a great game,” he said.

Meanwhile, coach Holbrook is now looking forward to assembling his best PNG Kumuls squad in the next two weeks for the upcoming Tri-Series Pacific Championship Test between PNG, Fiji, and the Cook Islands from October to November, which will be held in Port Moresby.

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