Sharks World Cup wrap
With Billy Slater rested Valentine Holmes was presented the chance to play in the fullback role with the Sharks number one turning in a solid performance in the 34-0 win over Lebanon.
Holmes was safe at the back and instrumental in the Kangaroo victory, running for a team-high 185 metres while his late line break and off-load to Tom Trbojevic led to the final Australian try on the night.
In his third outing for the Kangaroos at this World Cup Wade Graham got through 42 minutes of work, playing both as a middle forward and on the edge, with the Sharks backrower looking a good chance of being included in the Australian 17 into the knock-out stages of the competition, beginning with the quarter-final match against Samoa in Darwin on Friday night.
James Maloney kicked four goals and scored a try in the Australian win, while Josh Dugan was rested from the match but is an almost certain starter on Friday night.
However, while the Lebanese crowd made for an outstanding atmosphere at the game at Allianz Stadium it was nothing compared to the emotion surrounding the Tonga v New Zealand clash in Hamilton.
With Andrew Fifita leading the way up front, ably supported by a big, bruising forward pack, the Tongans made history with their 28-22 win, with incredible scenes following the final whistle.
Fifita’s contribution amounted to 11 runs for 128 metres, added to 23 tackles in 57 minutes on the field, with his experience in the later stages of the match crucial in helping his team clinch a victory.
With the win Tonga topped their pool and they now move on to play Lebanon in the quarter final.
As for their Pacific neighbours Samoa, while a draw with Scotland was a disappointing result, the one competition point was enough to see them progress to the quarter finals, with Australia set to be their opponents.
As he was the previous week, Ricky Leutele, playing on the wing for Samoa, was amongst their most dependable and effective players. Leutele made three line breaks in running for 157 metres during the game.
Joseph Paulo and Sam Tagataese both came off the interchange bench for Samoa, playing 39 and 34 minutes respectively.
While in the final match featuring a Sharks player, James Segeyaro found plenty of running room in the 64-0 PNG win over the USA, scoring a try and setting another one up in 62 minutes of game time. It was Segeyaro’s best performance of the World Cup so far and should see him in calculations to start the match at hooker when the Kumuls play England in their sudden-death quarter final.
The quarter finals begin on Friday when Australia play Samoa in Darwin, Tonga take on Lebanon and New Zealand tackle Fiji on Saturday, while the PNG Kumuls travel to Melbourne to face off with England on Sunday.