The second game of the Women´s World Cup pitched Papua New Guinea against Canada with PNG the clear favourites with the bookies, Canada given a twenty-four point start on the coupon. But the Ravens were very much an unknown quantity on the international stage and had a side made up of experienced rugby union players.
PNG are world ranked fourth, while Canada are currently ranked in sixth place. The two sides met at the 2017 World Cup when Canada won by 22-8 in Sydney, however very few players who experienced that game were on show this evening at Emerald Headingley Stadium.
It promised to be a little closer than England´s big win over Brazil in the first match of the double header.
There was some early nervousness with mistakes from both sides in the opening plays. Canada had two great chances to go in down the left-hand side but tremendous defence from The Orchids kept them out.
Both sides had chances in the opening twenty minutes, but the last ball went astray.
On twenty-four it was PNG who broke the deadlock. Moving the ball to the right after a quick play-the-ball with Shellie Long crashing over the line and managing to get the ball onto the ground. Emily Veivers was unable to add the conversion.
Canada opened their World Cup account on the half hour as PNG failed to deal with a kick to the corner, the ball grounded in goal by Petra Woods. Dani Franada converted from wide to snatch the lead for the Ravens by 6-4.
Ninety seconds before the interval PNG hit the front again, Martha Molowia taking the pass, ducking under a high tackle and stumbling over the line to ground under the tackle. Veivers was unable to add the conversion, the Orchids taking an 8-6 lead into the sheds.
It had been a terrific and hard fought first half and there was nothing to choose between the two sides in an even and end-to-end encounter.
It was a sensational start to the second half for PNG as Molowia broke through the Canadian defence on the thirty-metre line and sprinted in to score with just a couple of minutes on the clock. Veivers was on target for the first time in the game, PNG now 14-6 ahead.
On forty-six they were in again thanks to Ua Ravu spotting a gap in the Canada line and going in from five metres out, the Orchids turning on the style. Veivers was again wide of the mark, now just one from four attempts. It looked ominous for Canada, PNG starting to take control.
On the hour mark Megan Pakulis grabbed a lifeline for Canada as she powered over the line after tapping the ball to herself on the PNG twenty metre line. Franada added the conversion, the margin back to just six points.
It took PNG just two minutes to respond Essay Banu crashing over the line after taking a switch pass on the ten-metre line, Canada having no chance of stopping her. Lilah Malabag took over the kicking duties and found the target for 24-12. Canada were still in the game but needed to score next.
The win was secured beyond doubt with five minutes remaining as Belinda Gwasamun crashed over the top of her tackler and forced the ball onto the ground. Malabag was short with her conversion attempt.
Anika Butler added the icing to the PNG cake as she took the pass on the wing, dipped the shoulder and came inside to go twenty-five metres to score. Veivers added the conversion for a final score of 34-12 to PNG.
The game eventually went as the bookies predicted, but not without the odd scare from a Canadian side who impressed in defeat with their dedication and determination. PNG showed some nerves early on. but once they found their groove there was no stopping them as they registered their first World Cup win.
Papua New Guinea: Molowia (2T), Alu, Long (T), Gwasamun (T), Butler (T), Koroi, Malabag (G), Albert, Aiton, Kaupa, Veivers (2G), Banu (T), Ravu (T). Subs: Reeves, Awoi, John, Kunjil.
Canada: Gauto, Mueller, Sandboe, Woods (T), Franada (2G), Mariu, Sargent, Pittes, Steele, Hindley, Aberg, Pakulis (T). Subs: Tam, Maguire, Okonkwo, Menin.
Score Progression: 4-0, 4-4, 4-6, 8-6 : HT : 12-6, 14-6, 18-6, 18-10, 18-12, 22-12, 24-12, 28-12, 32-12, 34-12: FT .
Lead Exchanges: Papua New Guinea – Square – Canada – Papua New Guinea.
Referee: Geoffrey Poumes.
Attendance: 8,621 at the Emerald Headingley Stadium, Leeds.