STUDENT RUGBY LEAGUE WORLD CUP – MATCH 3
PACIFIC ISLANDS 40 WALES 12
By Andre Cupido for www.RLWC2017.com at New Era Stadium, Sydney
Wales will now take on Ireland on Friday in the fifth-placed play-off match at the Student Rugby League World Cup, after losing 40-12 to Pacific Islands in their final group game.
Despite Wales strong defensive efforts in the opening exchanges, and trailing by just 10 points at halftime, Pacific Islands put in a clinical second half display that saw them play some brilliant attacking football.
Wales were struggling to get out of their end-zone as the defensive pressure from Pacific Islands forced a host of errors, but were unable to take advantage with some mistakes of their own.
Despite the shaky start, Wales found some momentum with a penalty late in the tackle count, and they took full advantage of their chance as Dan Crabtree barged his way over for the first try of the contest. Fraser Stroud converted to give Wales a 6-0 lead after 15 minutes.
Trailing on the scoreboard, Pacific Islands continued to find themselves threatening with some attacking raids on the opposition goal line, but despite their attempts to cross the line, the committed Wales defence couldn’t be broken.
A strong short kicking game from the Pacific Island halves saw an array of repeats sets building significant pressure, and they finally found their breakthrough as Nathan Leatfiaga muscled his way over from dummy half.
Pacific Islands were brimming with confidence with a break off the kick-off putting them straight back onto the attack, and a pick shift from left to right saw Maru Fatu Sini score their second successive try.
A strip penalty off the ensuing set of six saw Pacific Islands march up the field once again, and an attacking raid down the short side landed in the arms of winger Joseph Tuimavave who finished strongly to cross for their third unanswered try.
Jett Karam was unable to convert from the sideline, with Pacific Islands taking a 16-6 at half time.
Remarkably regathering the ball from the kick-off, Pacific Islands were quick to extend their lead as Ropo Vai cleverly dug his way over the line to plant the ball down for their fourth try of the evening.
Karam looked to have scored his second try just moments later as he chased down a pin-point grubber, but the referee ruled that he had knock on in the process.
With Wales starved of possession, Pacific Islands continued to capitalise on their chances as crafty halfback Jesse Domic slicing through a gaping hole before evading the fullback to score a well-deserved try.
Karam converted from the sideline to extend the lead to 20 points with just over half an hour remaining.
Kolia Liko was having a barnstorming performance with another break down the right-hand touchline before sending it wide just moments later which saw Tuimavave score his second try of the contest.
Fatu Sini continued their hot streak of tries as he stepped his way through to score his second in the 60th minute, before completing his hat-trick tries as he was on the receiving end of a brilliant inside pass from his winger Kdah Karipa.
Wales were valiant in the closing stages with a consolation try to Macauley Harris, but it was to no avail as Pacific Islands recorded a thumping 40-12 victory.
Despite the loss, Fraser Stroud said there were positive signs and highlights his team’s strong effort early in the contest.
“It didn’t help that we had injuries in our backline, it got a bit tough for us but we got over in the end which shows a bit of passion.”
Meanwhile, Pacific Islands coach Tony Puletua says he was happy with the improved performance and his side is excited about the prospect of playing finals football.
“I thought we finished strong, but it took us a while to get going. There were a few positives to take out of the game and we’ll look forward to (the game on) Friday which will be a tough game – we’re going to have to be at our best.
“We’ll be looking to take that opportunity with both hands.”
PACIFIC ISLANDS: Jett Karam, Joseph Tuimavave, Maru Fatu Sini, Kooah Karipa, Rob Vai, Jesse Domic, Thommas Anderson, Derek Ah Chong, Jonathan Taefij, Alan Nuilesa, Kolia Liko, Josh Suli Ruka, Angelo Piccione. Subs: Nathan Leatigaga, Chris Vee, Luke Lauano, Brandon Luammau
Tries: Leatfiaga (30), Fatu Sini (33, 60), Tuimavave (38, 52), Vai (41), Domic (48)
Goals: Karam 6/7
WALES: Marcus Webb, Sam Owens, Ieuan Jones, Dan Crabtree, Aled Davies, Fraser Stroud, Cobi Green, Harry Boots, Curtis Davies, Archie Snook, Connor Meese, Matt Davies, Dafydd Hellard. Subs: Macauley Harris, Gethin Evans, Blake Turner, Rhys Davies
Tries: Crabtree (15), Harris (78)
Goals: Stroud 2/2
Referee: Tiarn Nicholls
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