Superstar Taumalolo back for Mate Maa Tonga at World Cup

Photo: Bernard Platt

Jason Taumalolo is back from suspension to give Tonga a major boost as they prepare for the Rugby League World Cup quarter-finals in England.

Injured pair Moses Suli and Isaiya Katoa are also on the cusp of a return.

After overcoming a sluggish opening to overpower Wales 32-6 at St Helens on Tuesday, Tonga will look to build more momentum against Cook Islands in the final group match before a likely quarter-final showdown with Samoa.

Having missed the opening two World Cup games because of a shoulder charge ban incurred in the Cowboys’ preliminary final loss to the Eels, Taumalolo will be champing at the bit to help his nation repeat their efforts at the 2017 World Cup when they reached the semi-finals.

Hard-running centre Suli and playmaker Katoa were both hurt during the first-up win over the PNG Kumuls but Woolf is hopeful the pair can play a part in Middlesbrough next week against Tony Iro’s Kukis.

“Moses will more than likely be available and Isy Katoa should also be available for our next game,” Tonga coach Kristian Woolf said.

“Ideally we’d love to play Will Hopoate and Siliva Havili back next week as well but if they’re not quite right we’re not going to take a risk because they’re really key players for us.

“They’re both blokes who could come into a quarter-final and make an impact straight away because they’re important players for us.”

On the back of some ill-discipline and skill errors, Tonga found themselves trailing 6-0 after 20 minutes at St Helens, but they slowly found their groove and took control thanks to the power of Addin Fonua-Blake and David Fifita and the poise of Tui Loloehea and Tesi Niu.

“We probably left a large number of points out there if you look at the number of opportunities we created but didn’t quite nail those at the end, so there’s plenty of improvement for us,” Woolf said.

“I thought overall our defence was good and we didn’t really look threatened too many times and that’s a good sign for our defence.”

Photo: Bernard Platt

PNG Kumuls overcome Kukis 32-16 in dominant second half

A brave Cook Islands outfit handed Papua New Guinea an early scare before the Kumuls powered away in the second half to win 32-16 in Warrington, northern England.

“We are really delighted with that win. We started a bit slow there but we regathered, especially in that second half and it feels good to take home the win,” said Papua New Guinea coach Stanley Tepend.

“I thought our spine could have done a little bit better, especially with their kicking but wins are hard to come by, especially in our pool so we’re happy with that.

We’ve got a short turn around so we’ll look at resting up as much as we can before our next game.”

“I think a couple of defensive lapses gave away a couple of simple tries that really turned the momentum of the game but they tried hard so I was really proud of that,” said Cook Islands coach Tony Iro.

“The front rower making 60 metres off the kick off didn’t help so I think the first try in the second half dampened our confidence a little bit. They stuck to the task but we just lacked a bit of intensity in that second half.”

Papua New Guinea face Wales on November 1 in their final hit-out before the quarter-finals.

Cook Islands will need to produce a stunning upset over Tonga to keep their tournament alive in the last of the pool matches in Middlesbrough.

Source: RNZ