|Ireland scoring against Italy|
The first matches have been played and for those involved an idea of where they are at this stage.
Game 1: The tournament got underway in Melbourne with the hosts Australia welcoming England, who were playing their 70th WC match. The visitors were ahead after 5 minutes 4-0 but failed to trouble the scorer thereafter. They did do well to contain the Kangaroos but you won't win many matches if four points is all you can muster. Two tries to Australia had the half time score 10-4. In the second period it was tight with a just penalty to the local side until a late intercept and long range try won it for the Aussies.
Final score: Australia 18-4 England. Attendance: 22,724.
Game 2: Up in Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, the 200th game of World Cup RL was played. Wales took on the local side in hot conditions with some top players not there and a generous number of Welsh born players now involved. PNG have a team playing in Australia so were well drilled. All this looked ominous and so it proved. PNG poured it on to lead 26-0 at the break and didn't relent in the second half. Wales got a consolation score right at the end.
Final score: PNG 50-6 Wales. Attendance 14,800 (capacity).
Game 3: In the city of sails, Auckland, the Kiwis hosted Samoa. The visitors would call the city home anyway and had plenty of support in the crowd. Samoa came out aggressive and NZ absorbed it all. The 10-4 half time scoreline was narrowly in favour of the Kiwis. In the second stanza, Samoa started to wilt and were at times tactically inept. The NZ team were guilty of many mistakes as well but had too much polish, running away with the game quite comfortably.
Final score: NZ 38-8 Samoa. Attendance 17,857.
Game 4: The last game on Saturday was held in Townsville, Queensland between Fiji and the USA. The American side opted for a generous number of local players rather than taking the heritage route. The right idea for the future but it soon became apparent that the Island nation was far too strong. They hit the ground running and led 36-6 at the break. After oranges things evened out slightly but not too much. The biggest disappointment was the apathy of the locals who stayed away in their droves.
Final score: Fiji 58-12 USA. Attendance 5,103.
Game 5: On Sunday the first game at Cairns was between Italy and Ireland, Italy being slight favourites. No one told the Wolfhounds that as they raced to a 20-0 lead after 30 minutes. The Azzurri got a late first half try to trail 6-20 at the break. The second half was much the same again as the Irish continued to outplay and out-enthuse their opponents.
Final score: Ireland 36-12 Italy. Attendance: 9,216.
Final score: Lebanon 29-18 France. Attendance 5,492.
Game 7: Tonga have an awesome side for this tournament and Scotland - which relies on heritage players - looking less of a team compared to 2013. Playing in the heat in Cairns was tough for the Scots and although gallant, the Bravehearts were outplayed to the tune of 38-0 after 40 minutes. The turn around could have got ugly but the Scottish side were much better, yet still outplayed.
Final score: Tonga 50-4 Scotland. Attendance 9,216.
Summary: Of the matches, two were what I'd call upsets. That is Ireland easily accounting for Italy and Lebanon overcoming France. Three teams registering 50 or more points was a bigger surprise. Another was the attendance figures. While apathy toward international RL is strong in Australia, even so the numbers were worse than I thought they would be.
Overall a great weekend of RL. Next week will see which teams will lift now all teams have their first match under their belts. Teams that are disappointed with their first round effort have a chance to put that right.
Pic source: RLEF.
For the 2nd Weekend Summary, just click here.
To see my tournament predictions, simply click here.