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PNG Kumuls blitz Fiji to win Pacific Bowl final

Joe Gould -

A first half point scoring blitz by Papua New Guinea has set up a convincing 32-12 Pacific Bowl final win over Fiji in Port Moresby.

The previous week the Bati had thrashed the Kumuls 43-16 at the same venue but the hosts came out determined to turn the tables.

PNG, coached by former Gold Coast mentor Justin Holbrook, ran with a strong breeze at their backs in the first half. They made the most of it to lead 26-0 at halftime after an exhibition of brutal forward charges and razzle dazzle backline play.

Pocket rocket Kumuls hooker Edwin Ipape was the best player on the field in a rampant display of running rugby league.

Ipape ran the ball on the last tackle from dummy half and scored through brute strength and willpower to give the PNG a 6-0 lead in the 16th minute.

The hosts shocked Fiji when they elected to run the ball rather than kick it again on the final tackle, with fullback Alex Johnston and second-rower Rhyse Martin showcasing soft hands to put winger Robert Derby over in the corner.

Martin landed his second sideline conversion to give the Kumuls a 12-0 lead.

Half Lachlan Lam and Johnston combined to put Derby over for his second and the home crowd went wild when Martin curled the conversion attempt over from the sideline again to make it 18-0.

Johnston was on fire for PNG and followed a stunning linebreak by centre Zac Laybutt to score next to the posts on the cusp of the break.

Fiji needed to score first after halftime to have any chance, and achieved that aim when centre Waqa Blake snaffled a Brandon Wakeham grubber kick.

Maika Sivo lost the ball over the line when he seemed certain to score as the Bati bombed try-scoring chances and gave away a raft of penalties.

PNG prop Epel Kapinias was sin-binned with 14 minutes remaining for throwing a punch and Blake darted over for his second.

Fiji's discipline deserted them when Taane Milne was sin-binned.

Kapinias returned to the field and finished more Ipape brilliance to ice the win for PNG.

Joe Gould - AAP


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