Thursday, 23 November 2017

1954 WC Final Highlights (video)

The first RL WC was played in France in 1954. This footage has rarely been seen before, even by students of the game. So what must be a recent release shows the skill, speed and energy they put into the game in the early post war years. There is no audio with the video. The teams are Great Britain in white and France in the darker colour (blue)


Source of the video and information about the terrible treatment RL suffered in France during the Vichy rule, simply click here. The game of RL is still waiting for justice. It's time France faced part of its shameful past France's and did the right thing regarding RL.

One error that is found in the source article above is they are not two codes of the game as mentioned, anymore than American Football is a code of the game. The games of RL, RU and AF have commonality of origin but are all administered totally separately, have their own rules and have very unique styles of  play.

RL Women's WC 2017 : 3rd Round Summary

The final round to determine who will be the four semi finalists. As it transpired, the qualifiers were already known. That didn't stop everyone giving it their all.

Game One: The Cook Islands had lost twice heavily and England had been more competitive so were clear favourites. The Moanas didn't read the script and went to a 16-0 half time lead over the Lionesses, who at this stage looked more like pussycats. The second half was different and the scores were tied 16-16 but a late score for the Cooks got them home.

Final score: Cook Islands 22-16 England.

The Cook Islands celebrate a win after heavy losses

Game Two: Canada got the short straw when its cross pool match was Australia. It was a mission impossible for the new nation in women's RL and so it proved. The 44-0 half time score was the same as the second half. A lesson in where the Ravens need to be and a chance to improve when they meet the Jillaroos in their semi final clash.

Final score: Australia 88-0 Canada.

Game Three: The Kiwi Ferns were hot favourites to overcome the PNG Orchids but got more of a battle than was expected, as the close 8-0 scoreline on the turn around confirms. They pulled a way to win in the end comfortably but a gallant effort form the PNG women.

Final score: New Zealand 38-0 PNG.

Semi finals: New Zealand play England and Australia against Canada. The Jillaroos and the Kiwi Ferns are set to resume their rivalry in the final.

For the Round Two Summary, just click here.

Photo source: BBC.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

World Cup 2017: Papua New Guinea

England were too strong for PNG

There is one country where RL is the national sport, and that by a country mile. That Is Papua New Guinea. The are known as the Kumuls, which means 'birds of paradise'. PNG was admitted into the international fold in 1974 and played their first test match the following year.

Report card: This was PNG's 7th WC, stretching back to 1988. They have played in all since then too. The first two were prolonged and extensive, providing a learning curve for the new test nation. After that, they became more competitive apart from the unfair pool of death system in 2008.

In 2017, they were on fire when their opposition couldn't keep up with them. They brushed aside Wales (50-6) and USA (64-0) but in between those game struggled to beat Ireland (14-6). The quarter final against England in Melbourne showed how they come unstuck against tougher opposition, going down 6-36.

So while they can run riot against lower ranked teams, things change drastically when the opposition is stronger. They go from free scoring to looking stifled. To break into the top tier, that is something that needs to improve. Still, a great improvement and their best WC ever.

Final ranking for the tournament: 5th to 8th (out of 14 teams).

Below is a résumé of past WCs. The lower figure for each year is the points differential for group matches only.



88 92 95 00 08 13 17


W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L


1
6

8
1 1 3
1

3

3 3
1


-241 -220 -16 +27 -92 -81 +116

Picture source: RLEF.

Other teams ranked at the 2017 WC. Click on the nation to go to that article.

12th - 14th: Scotland, Wales, USA.
9th - 11th: France, Italy, Samoa.
5th - 8th: Ireland, Lebanon, PNG.

Monday, 20 November 2017

RL WC 2017 : Quarter Final Summary

The business end of the tournament started here. The last eight teams into the knock out stage. So would there be any surprises?

Game One: Red hot favourites Australia took on the Samoan team that had yet to show much. In a sticky Darwin (of all places) the Kangaroos took control of the first half and led 30-0 at the break. The second half was more even on the scoreboard but Samoa were clearly out of their depth. A milestone was achieved when Australian player V Holmes scored a WC record five tries in one match.

Final score: Australia 46-0 Samoa. Attendance: 13,473 (capacity).

                                                   ***************

Game Two: Mate Ma'a Tonga were favourites to beat the Lebanon and much of the first half they were better, although the Cedars kept in touch on the score board. 22-16 was the half time result, with Tonga somewhat nervously looking over their collective shoulder.

The second period was tight with Lebanon getting the only second half try. A penalty goal was the difference as the tiring Tonga team was nearly caught. A fine match.

Final score: Tonga 24-22 Lebanon. Attendance: 8,309.

                                                   ***************

Game Three: The second Saturday game had hosts New Zealand taking on Fiji. It was never a sure thing but but the Kiwis were expected to prevail. Fiji pinned their opponents back in the first half with a good kicking game and fierce defence. The problem Fiji had was turning territorial advantage into points. The 2-2 scoreline was the score when they changed directions.

In the second half it threatened to open up but in truth neither side was very creative on attack, with defence dominating. Another penalty and a huge upset was the result. This was the lowest equal RL WC points scored in the 222 WC games played so far. Back in 1970, Great Britain defeated France 6-0, with three penalty goals in apparently poor weather conditions. This was on a much finer day.

Final score: Fiji 4-2 NZ. Attendance: 12,713.

                                                   ***************

Game Four: PNG have been good at home but how would they go when they travel? Would England have enough class to prove victorious over a quickly emerging second tier nation? The final match of the quarter finals would answer those questions.

In the first half, England scored a couple of slick tries as they ran up a 14-0 lead. For the second half, England proved too good and won comfortably despite numerous error creeping into their game, yet again. PNG had a great tournament but didn't have the class to go further.

Final score: England 36-6 PNG. Attendance: 10,563.

For the Group Stage Summary, please click here.

RL Women's WC 2017 : 2nd Round Summary

With Australia and New Zealand already firm favourites to reach the final, the focus was on how the rest would go trying to secure a semi finals berth.

Game One: Hosts and top seed Australia took on third seed England. The 24-0 half time scoreline to the Jillaroos was hardly surprising. The second half was more even but England were unable to cross their opponents line. I the end Australia scored eight tries.

Final score: Australia 38-0 England.

Six tries coming up
Game Two: New Zealand want their top ranking back and didn't hold back against the Cook Islands side. The first ten minutes were even but then the Kiwi Ferns took control and raced to a 38-0 half time lead. The second period was more of the same as NZ scored at nearly a point a minute. Winger H Hireme crossed for six of the team's 14 tries.

Final score: New Zealand 76-0 Cook Islands.

Game Three: The most intriguing clash of the triple header was between Canada and Papua New Guinea. The PNG Orchids took an early lead but the Canada Ravens got ahead in the 25th minute and led 10-4 at the break. Although PNG pulled it back to 8-10, the Ravens ran out the winners.

Final score: Canada 22-8 PNG.

Summary: The results mean that Canada and England should get the the semi finals along with Australia and New Zealand.

For the Round Three Summary, simply click here.
For the Round One Summary, just click here.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

World Cup 2017: New Zealand

If it wasn't for an entrepreneurial Kiwi bloke at the beginning of the 20th century noticing RL and then organising a tour of Britain, I wonder if the game would have made it down under. Because of that history and early start in the game, New Zealand has been present in  every WC going back to 1954.

Report card: In the first eight WCs, the Kiwis were either last or second to last. Of course there were usually four teams in those days so that isn't as bad as it sounds. However, it does show that NZ struggled to to be a leader in the game. Relentless opposition at home from RU apologists and poor administration hasn't helped.

In 1988, NZ made the WC final and in 2000 made another. Then in 2008, it won its first WC. The Kiwis had arrived. A 2013 final appearance made it four. Could 2017 live up to recent successes? Recent form indicated that may not happen.

A first up win over Samoa by 38-8 looked promising and demolishing a off colour Scotland was slick. However, after having a strong first half against Tonga, they got run down and lost 28-22. Was that just a hiccup? The quarter finals had them against Fiji, a tough opponent but one lacking polish. Fiji played a territorial, smothering game that the Kiwis struggled to live with. The closely fought game went Fiji's way 4-2.

This would have to be the worst result for the Kiwis since the expanded format in 1995. It's hard to compare with earlier tournaments because of their more limited format and teams competing. What it shows is that the gap between the traditional nations and the second tier has closed.

Final ranking for the tournament: 5th to 8th (out of 14 teams).

The historical results below (1954-2017) show a pattern. The lower figure for each year is the points differential for the group stage only. From 1954 to 1977, NZ was always in a minus. Then the 1988 to 2017 period, always a plus. It reflects an improved performance but also more teams competing, which effectively lowered the standard from having just the elite nations playing.


54 57 60 68 70 72 75 77

W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L



3 1
2 1
2

3 1
2

3 2 2 4 1
2

-48 -16 -12 -48 -45 -49 -28 -25



88 92 95 00 08 13 17


W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L


4 1 3 5
3 2
1 5
1 4
1 5
1 2
2


+72 +77 +17 +178 +30 +112 +92

Other teams ranked at the 2017 WC. Click on the nation to go to that article.

12th - 14th: ScotlandWalesUSA.
9th - 11th: FranceItalySamoa.
5th - 8th: IrelandLebanonPNG.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

World Cup 2017: Lebanon

Lebanon spreading the ball against France

The Cedars were formed in 1998 from Lebanese immigrants living in Australia. They also have a domestic competition but it is difficult in a strife torn region to grow and prosper as a sport. So how did their 2017 tournament go?

Report card: First up a mention that this is the second time the Cedars have made it to a RL WC. They also participated in 2000 and while they were walloped by a strong New Zealand side first up, they nearly upset Wales and then drew with the Cook Islands. Some really hard luck has been experienced in subsequent qualifying efforts before finally getting back in 2017.

For a start they were in the pool of death, where two top seeds were also included (ridiculous), so a win against third seed France was crucial. They managed that by scraping home 29-18 in a close one. They then lost to England 29-10 in a gutsy effort and likewise in going down to Australia 34-0. A quarter final against Tonga was the reward and a narrow loss 24-22 was the end of the road. Once the disappointment has subsided, they will take pride in what they achieved.

For a team with just five full time players, you would have to say they boxed above their weight. They went so close to a semi final berth. Although the side was made up almost exclusively of Australian Lebanese, their fine effort justified that position and hopefully the game back home can benefit from their success.

Final ranking for the tournament: 5th to 8th (out of 14 teams).

Picture source: RLEF.

Other teams ranked at the 2017 WC. Click on the nation to go to that article.

12th - 14th: ScotlandWalesUSA.
9th - 11th: FranceItalySamoa.
5th - 8th: IrelandLebanonPNG.

World Cup 2017: Samoa

Samoa has many of its people living in New Zealand and more recently Australia. They take to RL with gusto and have for some years now put up competitive teams. So how did the 2017 WC go for them?

Report card: Their first WC was in 1995, where they played just two games and although not going on to the semi-finals had a positive points differential of +34. In 2000, they came second in their group and got hammered by Australia in the quarter final game 66-10. In 2008, there was a three way tie in their pool but missed out with an inferior for/against scoring record. 2013 was identical to 2000 but this time their quarter final ended with a loss to Fiji, 4-22.

In 2017, they were in a favourable group where three from four progressed. A first up 38-8 loss to New Zealand was followed by a 32-18 defeat to island rivals Tonga. They then met a down and out Scotland team and somehow only managed to draw 14-14. Samoa amazingly got to the next stage of the tournament without winning a game. Their third quarter final ended ignominiously 46-0 to Australia.

This would have to be the worst WC for Samoa. Their attack was muted because the spine of the team was of ordinary standard. They tried hard but without effective leadership, effort counts for very little. With a large pool of professional players to call on, a disappointing result. Although they got into the final eight, I took the unusual step of putting Samoa below into the 9th-11th ranking due to their poor performance.

Final ranking for the tournament: 9th to 11th (out of 14 teams).

Other teams ranked at the 2017 WC. Click on the nation to go to that article.

12th - 14th: ScotlandWalesUSA.
9th - 11th: FranceItalySamoa.
5th - 8th: IrelandLebanonPNG.

Friday, 17 November 2017

RL Women's WC 2017 : 1st Round Summary

Finally the women are part of the tournament, as the first round - a triple header - was played in Sydney, Australia. Australia are favourites and New Zealand the other possible winners but after that highly unlikely the other four teams have any hope of lifting the trophy come finals day. The first round confirmed that as a likely outcome. Still, WCs to me are not just about winning but competing.

Game One: First up a Pool B game between New Zealand and Canada. The Kiwi Ferns side is a tough one honed on matches with the old enemy Australia. They took on an unknown quantity of Rugby Union converts taking to RL, known as the Ravens.

In the first half it was quite close as the Kiwis Ferns tried to find their groove and the Ravens were giving it their all. They changed ends with score 16-4. In the second half the NZ team's size, power and experience started to tell and ran away with the game.

Final score: New Zealand 50-4 Canada.

Game Two: Then it was the turn of the Australian Jillaroos against the Cook Islands Moanas (definition: a body of open water). The Jillaroos (definition: young woman in training on a cattle or sheep farm) hit the ground running and led 36-0 at the break. It was more even in the second half but by that time the horse had well and truly bolted.

Final score: Australia 58-4 Cook Islands.

Game Three: The PNG Orchids were expected to give the England Lionesses a run for their money and led early in the contest. However, the Lionesses had clawed back the initiative to lead 18-8 when oranges were passed around. In the second period England took control, going on to win but with some injuries along the way.

Final score: England 38-8 PNG.

Attendance: 3,000.

For the Second Round Summary, simply click here.
To see my tournament predictions, please click here.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

World Cup 2017: France

Two French players closing a gap against England

It was a Frenchman - Paul Barrière - that organised the RL WC's first tournament and the trophy is now named after him. France have been to all 15 WCs, but have struggled to keep pace with the top teams.

Report card: Too much history to discuss here. They did make two finals, 1954 and 1968 but have not won a tournament. In 2000 the made the quarter finals, losing to NZ and 2013 they got past the group stage again but lost to England.

In 2017, in a tough group they had to beat Lebanon but narrowly lost 29-18. Australia won against the Tri Colors 52-6 and England also 34-6. The team played with heart and have potential but aren't quite where they need to be to have a stronger impact in a WC.

In the charts below, they has wins, draws and losses for each tournament. The points differential at the bottom of each year is for group games only, not finals matches.For more on WC history, try this article which can be quickly accessed by clicking here.


54 57 60 68 70 72 75 77

W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L

2 1 1 1
2

3 2
2 1
2 1
2 1 1 6

3

+19 -31 -36 -23 -5 -20 -164 -39



88 92 95 00 08 13 17


W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L W D L


1 1 3 2
6

2 2
2 1
2 1
3

3


-105 -167 -68 +67 -18 -63 -87

Final ranking for the tournament: 9th to 11th (out of 14 teams).
Picture source: RLEF.

Other teams ranked at the 2017 WC. Click on the nation to go to that article.

12th - 14th: ScotlandWalesUSA.
9th - 11th: FranceItalySamoa.
5th - 8th: IrelandLebanonPNG.