World Cup week two: Five things we learned

Kallum Watkins got England off to a great start. Picture: NRL Photos
Kallum Watkins got England off to a great start. Picture: NRL Photos

Five things we learned from the second weekend of the rugby league World Cup...

It was hard to decide which was better - the Samoa-Tonga game, or the build-up?

Street violence involving opposing fans marred the build-up to the eagerly anticipated showdown. But the rival players embraced and came together for a prayer just before kick-off in a show of unity - and then had a spine-tingling face-off just before kick-off.

It was an incredible sight, and whet the appetite for the brutal match which followed, which Tonga won 32-18 to set up a mouthwatering clash with New Zealand this weekend to decide who will top Group B.

After a second mauling in successive weeks, Wigan’s Steve McCormack must have thought things couldn’t get any worse for his depleted Scotland.

Then three of his players, including influential captain Danny Brough, were sent home for misconduct amid reports they were too drunk to fly from Christchurch to Brisbane. Sam Brooks and Johnny Walker also depart the tournament early.

“We expect everyone involved in Scotland Rugby League to adhere to the highest standards of behaviour,” chairman Keith Hogg said in a statement.

Scotland face Samoa in the final Group B round this weekend, with the winners assured a quarter-final spot.

Many tipped Ireland’s match in Papua New Guinea to be the match of the weekend, and it didn’t disappoint.

Wigan’s Micky McIlorum - man of the match in victory against Italy a week ago - got Mark Aston’s side off to a great start with the opening try.

But roared on by another sold out crowd in Port Moresby, PNG battled back and clinched victory late on.

The Kumuls should have no problems overcoming USA in their final group game, and are on course to face England in the quarter-finals.

Ireland meet Wales in Perth in a curtain-raiser to England’s match with France on Sunday.

England picked up their first victory but their performance would hardly have the World Cup heavyweights quaking in their boots.

They were never in danger of losing, but their 29-10 win - in front of 10,237 fans at a rain-lashed Sydney Football Stadium - felt like a step backwards, rather than forwards.

Winger Jermaine McGillvary is waiting to see if he will be charged over an alleged bite on Robbie Farah - replays suggested the Lebanon captain forced his forearm into his mouth - and Wayne Bennett was criticised for giving one-word answers during a BBC interview afterwards.

Sport-hopping superstar Jarryd Hayne continues to make headlines.

He capped a week in which he was in the news because of reports he wants to leave Gold Coast Titans by making World Cup history.

He scored one of Fiji’s 14 tries, in a 72-6 thumping of Wales in Townsville, to poke ahead of Bob Fulton and Billy Slater as the leading tryscorer in the history of the tournament, with 14 touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Italy ended a difficult week on a high with a 46-0 rout of the United States in their World Cup clash in Townsville.

There was a much-publicised dust-up between full-back James Tedesco and Huddersfield forward Shannon Wakeman last week, but both played their part in this mauling, with Tedesco scoring two of their eight tries.

And on a weekend when England stumbled, Australia and New Zealand sharpened their knives with comfortable wins against France and Scotland respectively.