The Great Britain Lions were looking to restore a modicum of pride at the end of a disastrous tour as they travellled to the rugby league cauldron of Port Moresby to take on a determined Papua New Guinea side who were intent on sending the Lions home on the back of a four game whitewash.
Papua New Guinea are currently ranked as the tenth best in the world, behind Scotland and Lebanon, this match was scheduled to be a gentle wind down and bridge building exercise at the end of the tour. The Kumuls would have different ideas, wanting to compound the Lions misery in front of a sell out, fervent, home crowd.
Despite a late afternoon kick-off the temperatures were still high and the Lions would have to cope with high humidity and the noisiest of partisan stadiums.
Lions skipper James Graham lasted less than a minute as he was escorted from the field for a ‘head test’ after a big impact in the opening exchanges.
There was little to choose between the sides in the opening minutes, the Lions looking slightly more adventurous and giving the ball more air than the Kumuls. On fourteen minutes Blake Austin found space down the left wing to take a Jake Connor pass and dive over in the corner. Gareth Widdop’s touchline conversion didn’t make it to the posts, the Lions with a 4-0 lead.
A scoot from dummy half saw Josh Hodgson go over from five metres out for the second Lions score after good pressure on the line. Widdop was able to add the conversion and the tourists nerves were settled with a 10-0 lead after twenty-three minutes.
On the half hour Edene Gebbie thought he’d scored for PNG but the video referee agreed with the on-field decision to rule out the try, as the player was seen to have grounded the ball on the line.
As the half time hooter sounded Edwin Ipape turned on the speed for a sensational sixty-five metre solo try, outpacing a tired Lions defence to run down the centre of the field to score under the sticks. Kyle Laybutt added the conversion to reduce the arrears to just four points as the two sides returned to the sheds.
PNG drew first blood in the second half as they pressured the Lions line. On forty-six minutes Watson Boas grounded a grubber kick after winning a race with Jermaine McGillvary. Rhys Martin put his kick between the uprights for a 12-10 lead.
On fifty-one Justin Olam scored the third Kumuls try as the Lions capitulated once again. Olam won a ten metres chase to ground a Laybutt grubber kick. Martin again added the conversion for an 18-10 lead, the Lions up against it with just under thirty remaining.
It was turning into a rout five minutes later, the Lions players already mentally on the plane home. It was another kick through that did the damage as it rebounded off a Lions foot and into Kumul hands before being worked wide left for Alex Johnston to score in the corner. Martin pushed his kick wide of the posts but at 22-10 with twenty minutes remaining it was a mountain to climb against a rampant home side.
An awful mistake under the high ball from Jonny Lomax saw the ball spilled onto the ground where it was picked up by Nixon Putt who went over from ten minutes, unopposed, to score. Martin added his third goal of the game, in off the post for 28-10, the Lions not getting a look in as the home side dominated the second half.
It was a humiliating end to a very poor tour which has seen the newly reformed British Lions humiliaon the recieving end of a 4-0 whitewash. This was the best that Great Britain had to offer, the cream of Super League paired with a handful of NRL stars, and they were beaten by sides who really shouldn’t have been an issue for them.
Wayne Bennett, a squad of players, and the games administrators have a lot of naval gazing to do, and much thought will now be required before the Ashes series in the Autumn of 2020.
PNG: Johnston (T), Gebbie, Mead, Olam (T), Amean, Laybutt (G), Boas (T), Albert W, Puara, Page, Putt (T), Russell, Martin (3G). Subs: Ipape (T), Lo, Albert S, Meninga.
GB Lions: Lomax, McGillvary, Hughes, Connor, Austin (T), Widdop (G), Hastings, Hill, Hodgson (T), Burgess, Bateman, Whitehead, Graham. Subs: Thompson, Williams, Philbin, Walmsley.
Referee: Grant Atkins.