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Kumuls seek redemption on Bati to clinch Pacific Championship Bowl title

Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Photo Credit: NRL

After being humiliated and humbled by the Fiji Bati last Sunday, October 29, the PNG Kumuls regrouped and bounced back into the winner’s circle, blowing the Batis off the park with a 32-12 victory, redeeming themselves and walking away with the inaugural Pacific Championship Bowl title on Sunday, November 5, at Santos National Football Stadium in Port Moresby.

The visitors came firing on all cylinders and brought the hosts into submission last Sunday. The Kumuls were taken off guard by the flamboyant Bati outfit. It was a monumental upset the Batis have pulled off against the Kumuls on home soil. It was a hard pill to swallow for the home side.

To save face, the Kumuls had to come up with a strategic game plan in order to contain and counter the high-flying Fijians. The game plan, team spirit, resilience, and sheer determination has paid off for the Kumuls when they thumped the Batis in the big dance. The red, black and gold army did a soul-searching in the last five days and delivered a well-polished performance to snatch the silverware.

In the biggest stage where it mattered the most and with the title on the line, the 17-strong warriors did their homework and flipped the script in the decider, exacting revenge and inflicting pain on the courageous Fijian side. It was a sweet redemption for the Kumuls to cap off their campaign in style.

The Kumuls ran riot in the first half, piling four unanswered tries to take a handy 26-0 lead over the Batis at the break. However, they lost their mojo and tenacity to compete in the second stanza due to ball handling errors and ill-discipline. They shot themselves in the foot in the second half. They scored only one try in the second stanza to seal the deal.

On the flip side, the Batis put on a much better performance in the second half. They had more ball possession and field territory than the Kumuls, but failed to turn those try-scoring opportunities into points. The points came begging but the delivery was poor. Through continuous field territory, they managed to score two tries, reducing the points deficit to 32-12 at full time.

Although the Kumuls were not happy with their second half performance, they were pleased to get the job done. Despite performing poorly in the second half, the hosts stamped their authority and made their presence felt, bagging the inaugural Pacific Championship Bowl title.

It was a true Pacific Championship Test that would be remembered for the ages. Both sides were launching themselves on the pitch and putting their bodies on the line, playing like there was no tomorrow. The brutal hits, bone-crushing tackles, arm-wrestle and physicality of the game were nothing short of scintillating to watch.

Even though the Kumuls got the job done in the bloodied and seesawing affair, the Batis did not come here to make up the numbers. The Fijian lads came with all guns blazing and gave the hosts a run for their money in the tourney, ending their campaign on a high note. Make no mistake, this Melanesian rivalry will continue next year and into the future.

Besides, the more test matches tier-two and tier-three nations, such as PNG, Fiji and Cook Islands play every year, the higher the chances they have in progressing and growing the game and of course, improving their standings in the Rugby League International Ranking. It is also good for the 13-men code to be more competitive and respectable all across the international arena.

The four-week Pacific Championship Bowl challenge did not disappoint. All the players from the three participating teams (PNG, Fiji & Cook Islands) rose to the occasion and entertained the fans, creating friendships and camaraderie, establishing networks, and leaving fond memories behind.

Surely, the players, coaching staff, team management, commentators and fans alike are looking forward to next year’s tournament. With more test matches between the aforementioned tier-two and tier-three countries, the code will grow, expand and continue to reach greater heights.

The Batis have nothing to say but praise and appreciation for the respectable rivalry they have had with the Kumuls, including the rousing support they have received from the mad fans, and the hospitality shown to them by the locals. It was a feeling some of these players have never experienced in their lifetime. They were treated like demi-gods on foreign soil and went back to Fiji with pride and a sense of belonging.

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