The Pacific Championships have reached their final week, with two trophies to be decided over the weekend. Australia travel to New Zealand to take on the Kiwis in the Pacific Cup, while the Kumuls host Fiji for the Pacific Bowl.
The Kiwis and Kumuls suffered convincing losses last week against these same two opponents, and will be hoping for massive form reversals in order to be victorious. Still, all four teams get to start again, with 0-0 scoreboards and 80 minutes of giving their all for their countries.
Australia vs. New Zealand
Saturday 4th November 3pm (AEDT)
FMG Stadium Waikato, Hamilton
Australia: 1. James Tedesco 2. Dylan Edwards 3. Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow 4. Kotoni Staggs 5. Valentine Holmes 6. Cameron Munster 7. Daly Cherry-Evans 8. Payne Haas 9. Ben Hunt 10. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui 11. Cameron Murray 12. Liam Martin 13. Isaah Yeo Bench: 14. Harry Grant 15. Lindsay Collins 16. Patrick Carrigan 17. Reuben Cotter Reserves: 18. Nicho Hynes 19. Thomas Flegler 20. Selwyn Cobbo 21. Jake Trbojevic
New Zealand: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad 2. Ronaldo Mulitalo 3. Matthew Timoko 4. Joseph Manu 5. Jamayne Isaako 6. Dylan Brown 7. Jahrome Hughes 8. James Fisher-Harris 9. Kieran Foran 10. Moses Leota 11. Isaiah Papali'i 12. Briton Nikora 13. Joseph Tapine Bench: 14. Fa'amanu Brown 15. Nelson Asofa-Solomona 16. Griffin Neame 17. Leo Thompson Reserves: 18. Naufahu Whyte 19. Wiremu Greig 20. Keano Kini
Verdict: The Kiwis were disappointing last week against a weakened Australia side in Melbourne. They really struggled to crack the relentless Australian defence, as their impressive pack was largely nullified by a fast-moving, hard-hitting green and gold wall. In the final they will face the full-strength Kangaroos forward pack with Payne Haas, Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Liam Martin well-rested and ready to fire.
The Kiwis remain unchanged from last week and will have to hope the home crowd support lifts them to greater heights than they were able to reach last week.
The haka and the post-haka advance last week didn't intimidate the Australians, nor did the much-vaunted pack of fearsome forwards. Halves Jahrome Hughes and Dylan Brown need much more room to operate and James Fisher-Harris, Moses Leota and Nelson Asofa-Solomona must combine better to put a real dent in the Australian defensive line. Their effectiveness starts with the service from Kieran Foran at dummy-half. Foran will be better for last week's run, but he is not a genuine No.9 and it showed at times in the trenches. Foran has to catch the defence on the back foot, put them in two minds and then set his rumbling props loose.
Australia are just so well-settled through the spine with the experience of Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans, Cameron Munster and James Tedesco. With Harry Grant waiting to contribute from the bench, it is a formidable line-up. If their forwards can once again get on top of New Zealand, they'll unleash a backline bristling with pace and power.
Tip: Australia by 10
PNG Kumuls vs. Fiji Bati
Sunday 5th November 4pm (AEDT)
Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby
PNG Kumuls: 1. Alex Johnston 2. Robert Derby 3. Zac Laybutt 4. Rodrick Tai 5. Nene Macdonald 6. Kyle Laybutt 7. Lachlan Lam 8. Epel Kapinias 9. Edwin Ipape 10. Valentine Richard 11. Rhyse Martin 12. Dan Russell 13. Jack de Belin Bench: 14. Judah Rimbu 15. Liam Horne 16. Junior Rop 17. Nixon Putt Reserves: 18. Jacob Alick 19. Wellington Albert 20. Keven Appo 21. Benji Kott
Fiji Bati: 1. Jahream Bula 2. Maika Sivo 3. Sunia Turuva 4. Waqa Blake 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Kurt Donoghoe 7. Brandon Wakeham 8. Tui Kamikamica 9. Penioni Tagituimua 10. King Vuniyayawa 12. Apisalome Saukuru 13. Taane Milne 15. Caleb Navale Bench: 11. Kitione Kautoga 16. Gordon Whippy 17. Watasoni Waqanisaravi 21. Pio Seci Reserves: 14. Noah Nailagoliva 18. Jason Qareqare 20. Sirilo Lovokuro
Verdict: Fiji shocked the rugby league world last week with their 43-16 thrashing of the Kumuls with Maika Sivo and five-eighth Kurt Donoghoe starring with two tries apiece. The Kumuls started well with the first try after just two minutes, but they were outplayed from that point on.
PNG is a very proud rugby league nation and they will be looking to bounce back in this final. They have brought Rodrick Tai into the centres, and have also revamped their bench with the inclusion of Liam Horne, Junior Rop and Nixon Putt. Fiji have Penrith star Sunia Turuva returning to the centres after missing last week through injury, and have shuffled around their forwards.
While we should expect a much-improved performance from the Kumuls, it is hard to imagine them overcoming such a convincing defeat in just one week.
Tip: Fiji by 6
All odds correct at time of publication. Check tab.com.au for the latest.