The first fixtures of the 2019 Rugby League Oceania Cup were played overnight in Auckland and Sydney.
At Mt Smart Stadium in front of sea of Red, White and the occasional black jersey the the Kiwi Ferns kicked off the afternoon with a 46-8 over Fetu Samoa. Next it was the Kiwis with Benji Marshall back in the team. New Zelaand put in a solid effort to defeat an enthusiastic Tonga 34 – 14.
With most of the 23,624 crowd backing Tonga you could have been mistaken for thinking Mate Ma’a Tonga had won the match.
New Zealand have now put the defeat by Tonga in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup behind them and will be focused on their clashes against Australia and the touring Great Britain side later this year.
In Sydney Toa Samoa overcame a huge effort from the Kumuls to secure a 24 – 6 victory at Leichhardt Oval. In the first half PNG had plenty of opportunities to score but mistakes on the Samoa’s try line proved costly. Samoa held on to go into the half time break ahead 12 – 6.
It wasn’t until later in the 2nd half that Samoa wrapped up the match and also scored a try on full time to the delight of the Samoan fans in the crowd.
The occasion was the perfect advertisement for international Rugby League and sets the stage for the matches in October and November when the Oceania Cup will run concurrently with the historic Great Britain Rugby League Lions tour.
The tour at the end of the year is the first time the GB Lions have travelled to the southern hemisphere in 13 years.
New Zealand Rugby League CEO Greg Peters said: “Tonight at Mt Smart showed how important the international game is to everyone in Rugby League including the players, officials and most importantly the fans.”
“Our star-studded international teams are huge drawcards as shown by the 23,624 who packed into Mt Smart and it shows us it’s vital to provide a complete and meaningful international calendar.”
“It was also pleasing to see the crowd there for the women’s match to watch Fetu Samoa make a historic return to international competition against a classy Kiwi Ferns side.”
Rugby League International Federation southern hemisphere general manager Jeremy Edwards said: “The ferocious action on the field in both games and the electric atmosphere was the perfect advertisement for the international game.”
“This occasion gives us great momentum heading into the end of the season where we will see the Kiwis and Mate Ma’a Tonga in action again as well as Toa Samoa, Fiji Bati, and the Papua New Guinea Kumuls.”
“It’s very exciting that our women’s teams will also be in action at the end of the year with the Kiwi Ferns, Jillaroos, Papua New Guinea Orchids, and the English Roses all playing games to keep the incredible momentum in the women’s game going.”
October and November will also see the return of the famous Great Britain Lions jumper and an historic international triple header at Eden Park.
Waitlist for tickets for the end of year matches is open now at www.ticketek.co.nz/leagueVIP
Group A – Game 1
New Zealand 34
Try: Johnson (3), Hughes, Manu, Smith
Goal: Marsters (5/6)
Try: Kata, Taukeiaho, Tupou
Goal: Taukeiaho (1/2), Staggs (0/1)
Group B – Game 2
Try: Aloiai, Harris-Tavita, Luai, Paulo
Goal: Isaako (4/4)
Papua New Guinea 6
Goal: Martin (1/1)
2019 Oceania Cup Table
|Papua New Guinea||1||0||0||1||6||24||−18||0|
2019 Oceania Cup Fixtures / Results
22nd June – New Zealand Kiwis 34 v Mate Ma’a Tonga 14 (Pool A) : Mt Smart Stadium
22nd June – Toa Samoa 24 v Papua New Guinea Kumuls 6 (Pool B) : Campbelltown Sports Stadium
26 Oct – Australian Kangaroos v New Zealand Kiwis (Pool A) : WIN Stadium
2 Nov – Australian Kangaroos v Mate Ma’a Tonga (Pool A) : Eden Park
2 Nov – Toa Samoa v Fiji Bati (Pool B) : Eden Park
9 Nov – Papua New Guinea Kumuls v Fiji Bati : Christchurch Stadium