England Knights head coach Paul Anderson congratulated Papua New Guinea and reflected on an unforgettable experience for his squad after the Kumuls came from behind in Port Moresby this morning to square the two-match series with a 32-22 win.
The Knights, who had won the opening game in Lae 16-12, looked on course for a repeat when slick first-half tries from Warrington’s Tom Lineham, Wigan’s Tom Davies and the Leeds full-back Jack Walker established an 18-6 lead.
But the Kumuls surged back with 24 unanswered points either side of half-time, and although Lineham gave the Knights fresh hope with his second of the match – and third of the series – the home team maintained their impressive record at the Oil Search Stadium, where they won three World Cup fixtures last year.
“Congratulations to Michael Marum and his team,” said Anderson. “The Kumuls ran a bit harder than us in that game, and had more control. We got taught a lesson. At 18-6 with about 10 seconds to go before half-time, conceding a try had a deciding factor on our attitude. Over the two games we’ve made too many errors
“But this tour was about exposing a group of our young players to something completely different, out of their comfort zone. The more we do this, the more we can expose our players to these environments, the better our players will be. The last two weeks for me has been two of the best of my career, in regards to enjoyment levels.”
Lineham, the Warrington wing who was a late inclusion in the squad, added: “It’s been an absolute pleasure playing with this group of people, it’s been a really good tour, so it would have been perfect to cap it off with two wins. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case but it’s been a great experience and we’ve made plenty of fantastic memories.
“I thought in the first half we really dominated, our forwards were unbelievable, we pinned them back and scored some good tries. We didn’t take a couple of opportunities and that cost us dearly in the end.
“It did get pretty fierce and heated at times, as international rugby does. They’re big boys and tough boys, and they’re used to the heat. Congratulations to the PNG Kumuls – they’re a tough team and they deserved their victory today.”
The Knights will head home via Brisbane, and will attend next Sunday’s third Test between England and New Zealand at Elland Road.