The PNG Kumuls sent retiring skipper David Mead on a high with a 24-14 win over Fiji at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday night.
Mead grabbed a try and ran 139 meters as he led his country to their eighth win in their last 11 Test matches.
Fiji appeared to have taken the first blow in the 10th minute when Taane Milne crashed down with a force from close range, but he was ruled out for having lost the ball en route to the ground.
There’s no denying that the Bati kept the pressure on and co-captain Kevin Naiqama opened the scoring when he put in a grubber and cleaned up the leftovers after Dan Russell tampered with the ball.
While the Kumuls were looking for a bummer, it was Storm superstar Justin Olam who got up, made his way past defenders and raced 40 yards down the left sideline before sending in a pass for Lachlan Lam to score. Kyle Laybutt’s conversion brought the scores to 6-6.
Lam finishes Olam’s masterclass
Six minutes later, the Kumuls had a new hero as Test debutant McKenzie Lei shot four defenders to the line on a 15-yard charge to give his team a 12-6 lead at halftime.
The Kumuls seemed poised to continue that late attack with an early try in the second half when Solo Wane came out on the left wing, but he was denied by desperate cover defense from Sunia Turuva.
Laybutt appeared to have extended the Kumuls’ lead in the 50th minute when he shook off Viliame Kikau and shot toward the tryline, but the bunker ruled a double move.
Kevin Naiqama finds a way to score
Fiji then made their way to the other side where Milne put down a well-weighted eraser for Turuva to cap off a stunning performance with a four-pointer, but Nautua Masima missed the easy conversion and PNG clung to a 12-lead. 10.
With the game on the line, it was Lam who stood upright, split the Fiji defense and found skipper David Mead in him for an emotional try as the Kumuls moved up at eight.
A penalty against PNG hooker Wartovo Puara for late contact to Naiqama after a kick gave de Bati more possession within the 20m zone and Pio Seci crossed the line but was held up by Alex Johnston.
Player of the match Lam then put the icing on the Kumuls cake in the 75th minute when he grabbed an Olam grubber and dove forward for his second try of the night to make it 24-10.
A consolation attempt for Turuva was a fitting reward for his excellent play in the No. 1 jersey for Fiji, but it was the Kumuls home 24-14.
The Kumuls victory was the perfect farewell for Mead, who announced before the game that he would retire from international football after 15 exhibition games.
Kumuls hero David Mead gives one last gift
- Lamar Manuel-Liolevave was forced off the field in the fourth minute due to an HIA after his head came into an awkward position while attempting to tackle PNG’s Nixon Putt. He failed the HIA and was unable to return.
- The Kumuls team consisted of seven members from the side that defeated Great Britain at Port Moresby in 2019 – Alex Johnston, David Mead, Justin Olam, Kyle Laybutt, Nixon Putt, Dan Russell and Wartovo Puara.
- The young Panther Sunia Turuva was an outstanding fullback for Fiji with 24 runs for 252 meters and seven tackle breaks.
- Hooker Penioni Tagituimua got through a force of work on defense for Bati with 60 tackles.
- The Kumuls had only 44 percent possession in the first half, but made the most of the ball they had, completing 19 of 21 sets with 90 percent and scoring two tries to one.
- Storm big man Tui Kamikamica played the first 56 straight minutes before going into halftime with 18 runs and 176 meters to his name.
- McKenzie Yei came on report after 53 minutes for a fetch from Mikaele Ravalawa.
- Maika Sivo is back after his knee reconstruction, 222 meters, a line break and six tackle breaks.
Mead speaks after his last game for the Kumuls
Game of the game
PNG bench striker McKenzie Lei has just two tries in his 63-game Queensland Cup career, but with a minute left in the first half, he produced a stormy attempt from 15 yards to give the Kumuls the lead. After Nixon steamrolled Putt Tui Kamikamica to bring PNG to the forefront, it was Yei who picked up a loose pass and ran over the top of four defenders to enrapture the large contingent of Kumuls fans. Yei finished the evening with 117 running meters, seven tackle breaks and secured the status of a cult figure.
No one stops Yei
what they said
“It’s been a special week, Coach Stan and all the players have made it special for me and the family. To finish it off for a win is a huge bonus. If I don’t play in that 2008 World Cup I will.” don’t either. think I’d be here today. It’s given me a life.” † Retiring PNG Captain David Mead†
Papua New Guinea
“We didn’t get the job done but both teams played very well today. PNG took their chances so congratulations to them. Kevin played [five-eighth] today due to Brandon Wakeham’s suspension, so we tried to prepare there.” – Fiji Bati coach Joe Dakuitoga†
“The hunger is there, but it’s only a week and three or four days of training. We have good depth, so it’s a good stepping stone to the World Cup at the end of the year.” † Fiji Vice Captain Tui Kamikamica†
#Mead #bows #style #Kumuls #Bati #knocks