A big bouquet to the Pacific nations

Junior Paulo of Samoa is tackled by the Tongan defence during the Pacific Test between Tonga and Samoa at Pirtek Stadium. Photo: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito.
Junior Paulo of Samoa is tackled by the Tongan defence during the Pacific Test between Tonga and Samoa at Pirtek Stadium. Photo: AAP Image/Brendan Esposito.

IF THE world's number one and two ranked rugby league playing nations, New Zealand and Australia, continue to serve up the type of entertainment they did in Friday night's Anzac Test in Newcastle, they will risk losing fans in droves.

The clash failed to reach any great heights as a spectacle, and was arguably one of the dullest battles between Australia and New Zealand in many years.

I am prepared to concede it was Mal Meninga's first Test and Australia was looking at its fourth-straight loss to New Zealand, so the emphasis was on defence and controlling the game.

Meninga also had only four days and two training sessions to integrate his four rookies into the side, which is arguably why Australia played such a conservative game.

I also accept New Zealand's attack was heavily diluted by the absence of many star players, including dynamic fullback Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and experienced winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall, who was a late scratching.

But like so many who sat through 80 minutes of grinding, and at times almost boring Test football on Friday night, I thoroughly enjoyed watching PNG and Fiji battle out a 24-22 thriller at Pirtek Stadium, and also Samoa, which took the honours against Tonga in a tough 18-6 Pacific nations international that had everything from the time the teams exchanged their pre-game war dances.

Let me say straight up, this is not a criticism of Australia or New Zealand.

It's more a bouquet to the other four countries who decided to play some entertaining rugby league for their fans on a weekend set aside for representative games.

One thing rugby league can ill-afford to do in the current climate is deliver a product which fails to entertain its audience.

Given Meninga was in charge of a Queensland side which played tough, but also chanced its arm by taking risks in attack, I'm prepared to dismiss Friday night's lacklustre Test as a one off, rather than the new norm.

Hopefully, most fans feel the same way.


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