Tonga vs Papua New Guinea : The Great Britain coach, Wayne Bennett, says the Lions’ whitewash on their tour of Tonga vs Papua New Guinea demonstrates the rising standards of the international game. The eagerly awaited return of the Lions after a 12-year absence turned into a huge anti-climax with defeat in all four matches on the first tour for 23 years.Beaten in their opening game by a Tongan Invitational XIII, Britain suffered a two-Test series defeat by the Kiwis and on Saturday were humiliated 28-10 by Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
Bennett, whose contract with the Rugby Football League has now ended, was still able to find some positives from the tour. “You all need to have a good look at what’s happened with the international game over the last five or six years,” he said. “They’re playing more Test matches and more competitions and you’re starting to see the benefits of it. You’ve seen the emergence of Tonga, you’ve seen how much your team [Papua New Guinea] has improved and Samoa are much improved. The boys all want to play for their country now.
Wayne Bennett has failed as Great Britain Lions coach
“So, while we’ve got to swallow a bitter pill as Great Britain, on the other side of the ledger I see the game getting stronger. It was a wonderful game of football here. Everybody was entertained throughout.
“If I look at that side of it, I’m pleased with it. If I look at our performance, I’m disappointed we underachieved. We didn’t have a great tour. We had some great moments but not a great tour.”
The RFL will conduct a review before deciding whether to renew Bennett’s contract for England’s 2020 Ashes Series and the 2021 World Cup. He insists he has the appetite to continue the job he began in 2016. “I don’t think anyone can say I haven’t got that,” said the South Sydney coach, who turns 70 on New Year’s Day. “I don’t think I show any of that anyway, that I don’t have the appetite for it. But it’s not my decision now. I’ll talk to some people and see what’s going on and take it from there. My contract is up now so I’ll just wait and see and have some discussions.
“But tonight is not a good night to make decisions – you’re emotional and not in a good place, coaching has taught me that much. You don’t make decisions within 24 hours and after Grand Finals after about six weeks.”
n this country, rugby league has a perpetual smile on its face. It has been just what was needed at the end of a difficult few weeks for the reinstated Rugby League Lions.
It has seemed like a grind at times, as the Lions have struggled to find much form or finesse in losing twice to New Zealand and once to Tonga.
Beating the Kumuls is no ‘gimme’, given the pedigree they have in their side and the energy they are likely to draw from a fanatical full house at the Oil Search Stadium in Port Moresby.
But at least we have all been reminded in these past few days in PNG that rugby league can be as much about fun and enjoyment as it is about inquests and doom-laden hand-wringing among British fans.
Papua New Guinea have piled more pressure on Great Britain coach Wayne Bennett by upsetting the Lions 28-10 in a one-off rugby league test in Port Moresby on Saturday.
Signs weren’t good when captain James Graham was flattened when attempting a tackle in the first hit-up of the match. He stayed down on the turf before walking off, then failed a head injury assessment and wasn’t sighted again.
Down 10-0, the Kumuls scored five unanswered tries, including four in the second half, with Nixon Putt crossing in the 64th minute to secure the team’s second-ever win over Great Britain and their first since 1990.