Papua New Guinea showed their quality in their opening game of the tournament last Tuesday at St Helens’ Totally Wicked Stadium.
They very nearly pipped one of the tournament favourites Tonga in the game of the World Cup so far.
The Kumuls trailed 18-6 at the break but tries from Lachlam Lam, after a superb break by Leigh Leopards teammate Edwin Ipape, and Dan Russell coupled with a world record equalling conversion from Rhyse Martin and Papua New Guinea were level till a late try from Tonga snatched the spoils.
It was a game that showed Papua New Guinea are ready to compete with the five big teams of the tournament and what made it all the more impressive was the fact they had to do it without their star man Xavier Coates.
The winger has shone in the last few seasons in the NRL establishing himself as a household name starting off with just under a try every other game at Brisbane in his three seasons there prior to a move to Melbourne where he scored 16 tries in 17 games in 2022.
He was set to be one of Papua New Guinea’s main attacking weapons having already starred in State of Origin for Queensland.
However, prior to game one he came up with a hamstring injury which was initially brushed off as not too serious but he will now no longer take part in the rest of the tournament and is set to return to Australia.