By John Davidson,
England’s men’s and women’s team dazzled, and the Cook Islands pulled off a great upset on day one of the 2019 World Cup Nines. England notched victories against Wales and Papua New Guinea, while the Kukis were too strong for Tonga. A crowd of nearly 13,000 watched Australia knock off New Zealand in both the men’s and women’s games, while Samoa smashed Fiji and Papua New Guniea put the United States to the sword at BankWest Stadium. 1 LEBANON v FRANCE 12-8
Bilal Maarbani made history as the first try-scorer at the first-ever World Cup Nines. Maarbani touched down on the left wing to open the scoring, then grabbed a second with a brilliant solo effort as Lebanon led 12-0 at the break. In the second half France came alive and hit back with a great try. Lucas Albert put up a bomb and Paul Macron scored with an acrobatic leap, making it 12-4. Then Gavin Marguerite barged over to give the French hope. It wasn’t enough though and Lebanon held on for the gutsy win.
2 ENGLAND v PAPUA NEW GUINEA WOMEN 25-4
England and Papua New Guinea met in the women’s game and there was no quarter given. There were huge hits dished out in the opening stages and England’s line was under siege. But they keep the Orchids out and sucker-punched them when Rhiannon Marshall touched down off Faye Gaskin’s pass. Then Caitlin Beevers scored on the right wing, putting England in a dominant position at 11-0. Papua New Guinea hit back after a break down the middle. A quick shift to the right on the next set saw Ua Ravu scoot over, making it 11-4 at half-time. In the second half Marshall made it a double with a strong carry close to the line. Then Emily Rudge dived over to seal England’s impressive win. Leah Burke put the nail in the coffin with a four-pointer in the corner with two minutes left.
3 ENGLAND v WALES 25-5
England started strongly against Wales, with Daryl Clark touching down after just two minutes for the opening try. Gareth Widdop and Sam Tomkins then combined for a brilliant try. Tomkins made a break, Widdop was there in support, then offloaded close to the line for the Catalans fullback to cross. At 13-0 Wales were creaking and it got worse when Jerry McGilvary scored. A lovely cut-out pass from George Williams released McGilvary on the left. England kept up the pace in the second half, Jake Connor touching down after a nice offload from James Graham. Connor secured his second courtesy of an outrageous behind the ball flick pass from Tomkins. Wales finally managed a consolation try when Mike Butt touched down after McGilvary spilled Elliot Kear’s kick.
4 COOK v TONGA 30-7
The Cook Islands struck first when Kayal Iro scored in the corner, after nice hands put him in first. Iro crossed again after a kick bounced perfectly into his path to make it 8-0. An upset was on the cards when Rueben Rennie barged his way over right before half-time. Tonga were struggling and it got worse in the second half when Steven Marsters scored off Brad Takairangi’s kick. Then Aaron Teroi dived over from dummy half to make it 24-0. They couldn’t stop racking up points and Anthony Gelling grabbed the next try in the left-hand corner. Tonga finally managed a response when Sione Katoa touched down, but it was not enough as the Cook Islands registered a big upset.
5 SAMOA v FIJI 32-17
Samoa got the ball rolling when Jarome Luai stepped his way over after four minutes. Two minutes later they were in again, this time Moses Leota powering his way through. But Fiji woke up and they shifted the ball to the right where Maila Tudrava touched down to make it 11-4. However, Samoa were more clinical and extended their lead when Brian To’o used his strength to cross. At half-time the Samoans were ahead 17-4. It didn’t take them long to add more points, To’o getting his second of the night thanks to Joey Leilua’s pass. Fiji were under the pump and went behind further when Leota got a brace as he dived over between the posts. The Bati finally got on the board when Joseva LawaLawa touched down after he break free down the right. But Samoa were not really troubled and David Nofoaluma crossed, followed by Maika Sivo to finish off the match.
6 AUSTRALIA v NEW ZEALAND WOMEN 22-8
The Jillaroos got off to a great start when Keeley Davis scored, after a lovely grubber kick from the left wing. They made it two tries in the first four minutes when Tiana Penitani crossed on the right flank. Right before the interval Corban McGregor touched down to make it 15-0. It was a mountain to climb for the Kiwis and the domination continued with Alli Brigginshaw scoring from an exceptional chip and chase. Australia’s defence was tough but Atawhai Tupaea managed to get the ball down in the corner past two defenders. Teammate Jules Newman was the next to cross, making the final scoreline somewhat more respectable for New Zealand.
7 AUSTRALIA v NZ 25-12
It took the speedy Josh Addo-Carr less than two minutes to grab the first try of the contest, after he collected Wade Graham’s pass and sprinted away. The Graham and Addo-Carr connection paid off again soon after, when the winger touched down the forward’s well-placed kick. The Kiwis cut the lead when Jamayne Isaako finished out wide off Shaun Johnson’s pass. But the Aussies responded with a brilliant team try claimed by Kyle Feldt. In the second half David Fifita barged over as the Kangaroo’s juggernaut rolled on. New Zealand didn’t throw in the towel and Isaako scored his second, again set by Johnson. But big Fifita was outstanding and he notched his double with an aerial put down in the corner right on full-time.
8 UNITED STATES v PAPUA NEW GUINEA 27-10
A beautiful one-armed offload to Junior Vaivai opened the scoring for the United States. But the Kumuls responded immediately through Kyle Laybutt’s long-range effort. They then grabbed another through Edene Gebbie down the left wing to take an 11-4 lead. In the second half the Kumuls put their foot down and the next try was a brilliant four-pointer scored by Garry Lo. The Americans were under the pump and Stargroth Amean put them out of their misery. Watson Boas was the next to cross, outpacing the United States defence. The tries kept coming for the Kumuls with Dan Russell the next to score. With 40 seconds left the Americans got a consolation effort when Bureta Faraimo touch downed between the posts.