Leigh Centurions magic, Leeds Rhinos history maker and heartbreak as Tonga and Papua New Guinea serve up classic encounter

Tonga and Papua New Guinea served up the game of the World Cup so far tonight in an exhilarating contest adorned with great rugby, drama, mistakes, controversy and boosted by a magic, if mad, winning try.

It also plays host to a moment of history for a Super League star and saw two Leigh men show what they will bring to Super League in 2023.


Martin makes his mark
Kristian Woolf sides are notoriously difficult to break down but Rhyse Martin in essence scored back-to-back tries against Woolf in competitive games. After scoring in the Grand Final defeat for Leeds against St Helens. Then he got the first try of today’s game hitting a great line of Kyle Laybutt’s short pass. He then edged closer to the world record for consecutive goal kicks without missing. The record stood at 41, the following conversion from Martin took him to 39. The bigger point to take away from this, however, was the way Papua New Guinea stretched the Tongan defence early with set plays and offloads.

Trysaver Sione
That theme continued as Papua New Guinea again stripped Tonga for numbers down their right with a move designed to put Melbourne Storm destroyer Justin Olam. He fed the ball out wide to Dan Russell, or tried to as Sione Katoa’s hand was enough to flick the ball out of play.

Koula carves through
That defensive intervention was made much more important when Tonga began to turn the screw with St Helens like dominant set up the middle, a smart kick and a set of defence pinning PNG down. This clearly sapped some energy and from the relieving kick, Tolutau Koula produced some mersmeric footwork to carve through before finding Will Penisini.

Desperate Dan
After being denied himself by some desperate defence, it was Dan Russell’s turn to produce the heroics as he denied Koula who had found a gap and seemed set to slice through and score only for Russell’s stretched out arm to knock the ball out.

It’s a game of inches
They say it’s a game of inches and that was true when Russell thought he’d scored in the corner after another lovely sweeping move. However, the video referee discovered that he had put his foot in touch so the try was disallowed.

Tui terrorises PNG defence
Tonga’s second try saw the absolute best of Tui Lolohea. He jinked, weaved and dummied through the PNG defence, found support, got the ball back, beat a few more defenders, was tackles but the damage had been done with an inside ball to Moeaki Fotuaika saw him crash over for a simple try.

Back-to-back brilliance from Tonga
Straight after that Tonga took a 12-point lead as Suli Mosese burst through and found Isaiya Katoa in support for a lovely try.

Lam backs up for try
PNG needed to score first and they did through young Lachlan Lam. The try was made in Leigh as Edwin Ipape burst through the middle to tee up Lam for a try to make a game of it. It was a sensational break from Ipape who refused to be put down, a great offload from the hooker and good support for Lam to make it well and truly game on.

Another nearly moment
There has been so many nearly moments in the game and another came as PNG looked to level matters. They created space down the right but despite a desperate attempt to touch down from Rodrick Tai who tried to squeeze the ball down in the corner, he was just an inch too far right and on the touchline due to some amazing defence to bounce him in that direction.

Russell levels it and Rhyse equals record
Papua New Guinea were well up for this and ready to lay down a marker against a competition favourite and gave themselves the chance of levelling the scores when they went blind from a scrum and Russell got a deserved try. This left Leeds Rhinos’ star Rhyse Martin with the chance to level the game from the touchline but also equal the world record for goals without misses and he stepped up to deliver the magic moment and leave things at 18-all.

Mad rugby leads to magic rugby
Tonga had set up for the drop goal, but instead hooker Soni Luke went for a dart and was tackled. He managed to squirm away an offload as the Tongans look to scramble the ball over to Katoa for a drop goal attempt. But it was far too scruffy and bounced around the halfback so he was forced to find a pass. Tonga went all the way to the right edge, cut back inside, found a kick which led to a magic winning try for Keaon Koloamatangi.

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