Toa Samoa was given a solid workout before beating New South Wales Country Under-23s 40-26 in a Rugby League World Cup warm-up match in Wagga Wagga on Saturday.
Newcastle’s Peter Mata’uita opened the scoring for the Samoans as he sliced through for the opening try after 15 minutes.
Nine minutes into the second stanza Junior Kiwi Jarome Laui made the most of a pause in play to score from 40 metres out before Joey Leilua completed a 60-metre team try to have Samoa racing ahead a 18-0 lead.
Country was next to score as Jacob Gagai swooped on a loose ball to score with a minute left before the long break, much to the delight of the home crowd.
The Samoans extended their lead six minutes after halftime when Melbourne Storm wing Young Tonumaipea scored off a slick inside ball.
However, Country was quick to respond when Gagai plucked an intercept try only to see Samoa score the last two tries of the period to take the score-line to 30-10.
Despite tries to Vodafone Warriors wing Ken Maumalo and Parramatta front rower Suaia Matagi, Country fired back with three tries, including a 100-metre team effort to finish with a bang.
Despite some concerns, Samoa captain Frank Pritchard saw positives.
“It was a slow start from us – a few boys hadn’t played for a while – but at the end of the day it was good to get a hit out,” he said.
“Due to Country’s performance it wasn’t easy, it was a tough one. They have that tough country mentality and when it was time to switch on they switched on.”
As well as Maumalo. fellow Vodafone Warriors Sam Lisone, Bunty Afoa and Jazz Tevaga also lined up for the Samoans in the warm-up encounter.
Farah influential in Lebanon victory
Captain Robbie Farah is set to start at halfback for Lebanon in its opening World Cup match against France after leading the Cedars to a 32-16 defeat of Niue at Leichhardt Oval on Saturday night.
With Parramatta playmaker Mitchell Moses and prop Tim Mannah rested for the warm-up match, Farah partnered South Sydney club mate Adam Doueihi in the halves, while recently re-signed Canterbury hooker Michael Lichaa shared the dummy half duties with Jamie Clark.
The Cedars led 6-0 at quarter time after a converted 17th minute try by fullback Anthony Layoun and went further ahead in the 24th minute when Doueihi put Newcastle centre James Elias over with a perfectly timed pass.
Former Eels junior Jason Wehbe, who had a stint playing rugby union in Japan, staked his claim for inclusion in the team to play France at Canberra Stadium on October 29 with a perfectly-weighted cross-field kick for Manly under-20s premiership winger Bilal Maarbani to score.
Wehbe later crossed for a try himself after Farah sliced through the defence while Blacktown Workers forward Nick Kassis and North Sydney Bears winger Abbas Miski also scored for Lebanon in the second half. – Brad Walter | @BradWalterSport | Chief Correspondent, RLWC2017 (first published on www.rlwc2017.com).
Kangaroos prevail in Suva warm-up
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga has all but confirmed that Billy Slater will end a 30-month absence from Test football when he pulls on the No 1 Australia jersey in the opening World Cup match against England in Melbourne on October 27.
Cronulla’s Valentine Holmes played fullback in the Pacific Tri-Series in Suva on Saturday after Slater was rested along with Melbourne team-mates Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Will Chambers and North Queensland’s Michael Morgan.
However, Meninga indicated all five would play in the World Cup opener, including Slater, whose last appearance for Australia was the 2015 ANZAC Test.
“I was very happy with the guys’ efforts. We let in only one try so defensively they were outstanding and from our point of view. We got a lot of value out of the games,” said Meninga.
“Billy will come back into the squad for the first game but Valentine Holmes is sniffing around and Tom Trbojevic can play fullback too so we have got three good options.”
The Kangaroos defeated PNG Kumuls 20-4 in a 40-minute match with Trbojevic, Josh Mansour, Dane Gagai and Wade Graham crossing the stripe. Rhyse Martin scored PNG's sole try.
The Kangaroos backed that up with an 18-0 win over Fiji Bati thanks to tries from Josh Dugan, James Maloney and Ben Hunt.
Earlier in the day PNG defeated Fiji 10-0 in the Pacific Tri-Series opener. – Brad Walter | @BradWalterSport | Chief Correspondent, RLWC2017 (first published on www.rlwc2017.com).
France makes late squad change
France has called in Sheffield Eagles halfback Rémy Marginet after losing Guillaume Bonnet to a knee injury in Friday night’s 34-12 defeat of Jamaica in Perpignan.
Bonnet suffered the injury in the 56th minute of the RLWC2017 warm-up match and he was ruled out of the tournament after scans revealed the Sporting Olympique Avignon star had ruptured his anterior cruciate.
Maxime Herold also failed to finish the match after being concussed in the fourth minute while there were concerns about a knee injury suffered by Nabil Djalout but both are due to arrive in Sydney with the French team on Monday.
France coach Aurélien Cologni used the match as a dry run for the opening RLWC2017 game against Lebanon and would have been happy with the combination of captain Theo Fages and William Barthau, who won man-of-the match after laying on tries to Bastien Ader and Benjamin Jullien.
Former Sydney Roosters under-20s player Mark Kheirralah, who plays for Toulouse, laid claim to a place in the starting line-up for the Lebanon clash with a strong performance. – Brad Walter | @BradWalterSport | Chief Correspondent, RLWC2017 (first published on www.rlwc2017.com).