Papua New Guinea v Samoa preview

PacificTest2019 Brown
Embed from Getty Images
Papua New Guinea v Samoa Saturday 7:55pm at Leichhardt Oval

While a simple glance at the team lists for this match reveals Samoa has a significant advantage with NRL quality players taking the field, Papua New Guinea found themselves in a similar position last year and caused a big upset.

This Saturday will almost be a year to the day when PNG, the tenth ranked rugby league nation in the world, played Fiji (ranked fifth in the world) and came away with a landmark 26-14 win.

All of their 26 points came in the first half. Kumuls debutant and winger Junior Rau scored a double. Fiji fielded players that had more than 700 NRL games experience combined, while the PNG side had a little over 200 NRL games experience.

Papua New Guinea was inspired to perform and honour former Raiders centre Kato Ottio, who tragically passed away in January 2018. It was the first time the PNG side played without him.

Front-row forward Luke Page was a strong contender for best on ground, as he recorded a linebreak, a try, 136 run metres, three tackle busts and 24 tackles to dominate the middle for the Kumuls.

This pacific test match-up puts the world's seventh (Samoa) and tenth (PNG) best nations on show (according to the Rugby League International Federation rankings).

Samoa will field 17 NRL players to the Kumuls' four, and is buoyed by the addition of Martin Taupau and Jamayne Isaako. Both announced their change of allegiance from the New Zealand Kiwis in the past week to give Samoa a major boost.

A slow start to Samoa's last international fixture, a 38-22 loss to Tonga a year ago, evaporated their chance at victory.

They'll need a greater emphasis on out-muscling and out-enthusing the opposing squad. The stage is set for Junior Paulo and Taupau to wreak havoc with halves Anthony Milford and Chanel Harris-Tavita skilled at capitalising on a stretched defence.

Papua New Guinea has won four of their last five matches at the international level dating back to 2017, in an effort to boost themselves further up the rankings.

On this run they've recorded close wins against Fiji and Ireland, plus blowout wins against the United States and Wales.

At the 2017 Rugby League World Cup PNG won all three pool matches to set up a quarterfinal against England in Melbourne, but a 36-6 loss ended their campaign. Samoa lost to New Zealand and Tonga but managed a draw against Scotland; Australia knocked them out in the quarterfinals.

Last meeting: Rugby League World Cup 2013, Group B - Samoa 38 Papua New Guinea 4

Antonio Winterstein scored a hat-trick and Anthony Milford was the goal kicker who successfully converted five of the seven tries.

Who to watch: With his switch from the Kiwis to Samoa, Jamayne Isaako gets an immediate chance to line-up for Samoa at his preferred position of fullback. In his second season of NRL at the Brisbane Broncos he's spent time on the wing and in reserve grade, all while Darius Boyd continues to hold the fullback position despite widespread public criticism of his form. With club teammate Milford also looking after the playmaking in this match, these two could make a damaging combination. If Isaako can light it up in from fullback for Samoa it could make the noise louder for him to become Brisbane's fullback.

Rhyse Martin has taken a step backward from a year ago, where he was a consistent 80-minute player in his rookie season to limited minutes off the bench in 2019. The opportunity to receive significant minutes and represent Papua New Guinea on Saturday could bring the best out of him. Martin will be playing against his second-row teammate Raymond Faitala-Mariner from the Canterbury Bulldogs, who has been getting big minutes from Bulldogs coach Dean Pay which appears to come at Martin's expense.

The favourite: Samoa enters this match as a heavy favourite. The disparity of NRL talent can't be ignored.

My tip: In the international game of late we've seen encouraging performances from more nations than ever before. Upsets are starting to become commonplace as the talent level of these squads continues to increase. We can all tip with confidence that both these nations will show tremendous pride for their country and jersey, which makes for great viewing. As for a winner, it's hard to think there's any way Samoa can be caught off guard by Papua New Guinea. Samoa by 22.


1. Edene Gebbie 2. Junior Rau 3. Brandon Nima 4. Xavier Coates 5. Terry Wapi 6. Edwin Ipape 7. Kyle Laybutt 8. Enoch Maki 9. James Segeyaro 10. Luke Page 11. Rhyse Martin 12. Nixon Putt 13. Moses Meninga 14. Kurt Baptiste 15. Zev John 16. Rhadley Brawa 17. Stanton Albert

1. Jamayne Isaako 2. Jorge Taufua 3. Hymel Hunt 4. Marion Seve 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Chanel Harris-Tavita 7. Anthony Milford 8. Junior Paulo 9. Jarome Luai 17. Josh Aloiai 11. Raymond Faitala-Mariner 12. Jaydn Sua 13. Martin Taupau 10. James Gavet 14. Mason Lino 15. Michael Chee Kam 16. Herman Ese'ese


Referees: Adam Gee; Sideline Officials: Dave Munro, Nick Morel; Video Referees: Henry Perenara, Bryan Norrie;



Follow all the action LIVE in our Match Centre