Papua New Guinea have lifted the inaugural Pacific Bowl having defeated Fiji early this morning in front of an adoring home crowd in Port Moresby.
It marks the end of the international calendar down under following New Zealand’s shock record win over Australia in the Pacific Championship yesterday. It also marked a major reversal in results from last week with the Fijians having ran riot only a week ago, similar to how the Kiwis had fallen to Australia a week prior.
PNG had kicked off the Pacific Bowl with a resounding 46-10 win over the Cook Islands, far more convincing than Fiji’s 22-18 result, but then when the two sides faced off last week Fiji put up a score and defeated the Kumuls 43-16 in Port Moresby.
That painful defeat last week spurred Justin Holbrook’s side on to secure victory this morning and they did so in devasting fashion, having almost sealed the game at half time as they raced into a 26-0 lead.
It was Leigh Leopards’ star Edwin Ipape who opened the scoring after quarter of an hour with Rhyse Martin knocking over the extras. It was a historic day for Martin as he became the Kumuls’ most capped player as he picked up his 17th international cap and the kicker had himself a performance, making all five conversions and tacking on a penalty as well to rack up 12 points.
Just minutes after Ipape’s opener winger Robert Derby scored the first in his brace, both tries almost identical and coming down the left hand side with South Sydney Rabbitohs’ Alex Johnston setting Derby up on both occasions.
Johnstone then got in on the scoring himself just before the half time hooter after a line break from centre Zac Laybutt to give PNG a resounding 26-0 lead at half time, and give Fiji a mountain to climb if they were to come back.
They did put a dent in that score line though as they started the second half far better with an almost immediate score through Waqa Blake, however the Fijians couldn’t get back into the game through their wastefulness. Blake did add a second on the 70 minute mark but by then it was too late.
PNG rounded off the win with a 75th minute score to tie up the victory 32-12 handing former St Helens boss Justin Holbrook silverware in just his third game in charge of the Kumuls having taken the role up in August.