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France hold off valiant Kumuls
France have opened their World Cup account with a gutsy 9-8 victory over the Papua New Guinea Kumuls in front of 7,481 people in Craven Park.
In a game measured more in brutality rather than skill France have weathered a heavy effort from a Kumuls outfit who showed they won't a pushover in this World Cup.
The wind was playing games for both sets of halves in the contest but Thomas Bosc tucked it under his arm, going himself and slamming the ball down for the opener. He converted his own try for a six-nil lead after seven minutes.
Papua New Guinea used some ingenuity and luck for their opener with a Kumul player falconing the ball into the path of Nene McDonald who touched down making it 6-4.
As the conditions worsened the two sides drew closer in quality as the ball-playing skills of the French were blunted due to heavy defense and needless errors. Papua New Guinea going in two behind but right in this contest.
They sent a shiver down the French spines right after the break when Josiah Abavu was on the end of a swift backline movement belying the damp conditions to take a deserved lead.
It evolved into an arm wrestle with France having to hold off a resilient Kumuls side with four straight sets at their line. A piece of magic would be needed to break the monotony.
For the French side - it came from two swift kicks from their halves partners. First Thomas Bosc piloted a penalty through the sticks to even the ledger and William Barthau added a field goal in the 64th minute to re-claim the lead.
The drop goal brought relief for the French but lifted the tension and noise within Craven Park as each penalty, offload and tackle was greeted with a cheer or boo if it was by the French.
Papua New Guinea brought the crowd to their feet late in the piece after a wobbly bomb was muddled up by Barthau and touched by an offside player. It gave David Mead the chance to steal the victory right at the death.
He stood up, nervously in the gusting wind, needing the ball to be held down adding to the drama. Mead never looked confident and skewed the kick wide meaning France held on.
Papua New Guinea 8 France 9
Venue: MS3 Craven Park
Halftime Score: France 6-4
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - William Barthau
2 points - Ray Thompson
1 point - Thomas Bosc