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Inside Two of the Biggest RL World Cup Upsets

After an uncertain period of delay, the Rugby League World Cup 2021 schedule looks to be holding strong for a start in October this year. Despite plenty of shuffling, the men’s event will continue as planned—along with the women’s and wheelchair tournaments. For the first time, all four will be held in the same year, in the same host country (England).

Abroad, interest in rugby league is steadily increasing, alongside other staples like cricket and soccer (football). Rugby, in particular, always has a new event on the horizon, from the World Cup to the Challenge Cup to the Six Nations. Additionally, coverage from top sportsbooks has introduced many bettors to rugby for the first time.

For example, the best online sports betting sites in PA offer odds on rugby league’s World Cup, NRL, and Challenge Cup, as well as certain rugby union events. But with the RL World Cup’s catchy name, similar to the FIFA World Cup that many follow, it’s become a popular event for new US fans.

But for long-time rugby league fans, the World Cup is one of the tensest periods in international competition—especially for those who aren’t pulling for another Australian win. Since the tournament launched in 1954, the Kangaroos have taken home eleven titles. But that doesn’t mean there haven’t been stunning matches and more than a few jaw-dropping upsets over the years.

Kiwis Take Down the Kangaroos 34-20

2008 World Cup Finals

Prior to the RL World Cup’s restructuring in the early 90s, only Great Britain had been able to contend with the Kangaroos. During the round-robin period of the competition, Great Britain managed to swipe three titles—but since shifting to compete as England, Wales, and Scotland, there hasn’t been a team to stop Australia.

Except for the Kiwis. When the tournament began, Australia brushed the team aside with a comfortable 30-6 win. The Kangaroos then went on the topple England with a 52-4 win. Pundits all but threw in the towel; England was considered the only competitive side in the tournament aside from the Kangaroos.

This only added to the stunning Kiwi win later on, which had more than a few unpredictable circumstances at play—starting with Australia’s early 10-0 lead. Next came a crucial error from Billy Slater, a shoo-in for player of the tournament. Then was a penalty-try decision, which finalized the team’s success. Last was the fact that the Kiwis actually had an Australian on their side—Wayne Bennett, who worked with Kiwi coach Stephen Kearney to script the win.

Fiji Take Down Kiwis 4-2

2017 World Cup Quarter-Finals

The Kiwis’ win has partly served as a reminder that Australia doesn’t own the RL World Cup. Though New Zealand is a rugby union country, plenty of rugby league fans have been waiting for the team to batter through the Kangaroos again. Back in 2017, however, the Kiwis weren’t looking in good shape.

First came a 28-22 loss against Tonga, hinting that the Kiwis weren’t at their best. While Tonga’s performance in the second half can’t be understated (it included a clutch hat trick from Roger Tuivasa-Sheck), most pundits assumed New Zealand would rally for their next battle against Fiji. That never happened, as the Kiwis couldn’t shake the loss.

What started with a withdrawal from Jason Taumalolo snowballed into a breakdown in the match against Fiji. As with the Tonga match, plenty of credit is owed to the Fijian side. A dominative first half from Fiji (with 62% possession), evolved into a scrappy contest that saw the Kiwis lose more and more composure.

Unfortunately for rugby league fans waiting for a David to take down the Goliath of Australia, like in 2008, Fiji lost against the Kangaroos in Brisbane in the semi-finals. Australia then went on to claim their latest World Cup trophy.

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