League: Kiwis pleased to be party poopers

By Michael Brown

Kiwis 48 PNG 6

Papua New Guinea coach Adrian Lam said he would give his players permission to "go berserk" and party all week if they upset New Zealand last night. The Kiwis were more than happy to play the role of party-poopers.

Stephen Kearney's side were in no mood to let the Kumuls threaten a boilover the way they did against England a week earlier.

They looked business-like from the opening whistle, racing to a 22-0 halftime lead and, apart from a 10-minute period after the break, dominated in a nine-tries-to-one victory.

The only concern was a hamstring strain to Benji Marshall which saw him sit out the second half and, while he professed it to be minor, the medicos will be eager to return with a positive outlook. Marshall is the key if the Kiwis are to trouble Australia and win their first World Cup.

It's difficult to know how good this Kiwis performance was. Facing the yellow, red and black of the Kumuls and their part-time players is nowhere near as daunting as taking on the mighty green and gold.

They were given much more time and space than Australia allowed last weekend and continually played on the front foot.

They spread the ball more than the one-out running that was largely ineffectual against the Kangaroos and often changed the point of attack or popped up offloads as the gaps opened.

They also set the agenda on defence, winning the wrestle through the likes of Jeremy Smith and Simon Mannering. But there was still enough for Kearney and sidekick Wayne Bennett to work on.

Errors and uncertainty entered their game early in the second spell as the Kumuls recaptured some of the form that had given England such a fright.

They will also need to improve their goalkicking because, against better sides, they will need all the points they can get.

But Kearney wanted improvement and he got that.

The win essentially confirmed the Kiwis' place in the semifinals Papua New Guinea would need to beat Australia next weekend to upset the natural order of things - where they will likely meet England.

New Zealand and England will get a good look at each other next Saturday night in Newcastle, with those Kiwis who toured the UK last year no doubt keen to achieve some payback.

Winning breeds confidence and they will at least go into that match feeling better about their World Cup chances and reminding themselves they traditionally improve as tournaments progress.

Last night they needed a good start to nullify the Kumuls, who are clearly a confidence side.

Centre Jerome Ropati waltzed over in the ninth minute after Marshall skipper around a defender. Mannering followed with a simple double after only 24 minutes.

Sam Perrett was the beneficiary of a brilliant Marshall pass that cut out three players to give the Kiwis a comfortable halftime lead.

David Moore gave Papua New Guinea a glimmer of hope when he weaved past two defenders to score in the 48th minute.

They briefly threatened as the Kiwis looked to find their way again without Marshall but when Issac Luke scored in the 55th minute, the Kumuls capitulated.

New Zealand 48 (S. Mannering 2, S. Perrett 2, J. Ropati, I. Luke, D. Fa'alogo, A. Blair, G. Eastwood tries, K. Inu 6 gls) Papua New Guinea 6 (D. Moore try, J. Wilshere gl). HT: 22-0.

- Herald on Sunday

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