Papua New Guinea defeat Wales to set up England World Cup quarter-final | Rugby League World Cup 2021

Papua New Guinea have certainly given England some food for thought. The nature of the hosts’ performances so far in the Rugby League World Cup meant that no matter what the Kumuls did here on a wet night in Doncaster, England were guaranteed to start Saturday’s quarter-final as favourites.

But Stanley Tepend’s side will have left an impression on any England supporter watching here. The talk pre-match was whether Wales could pull off an almighty shock and win by 22 points or more to usurp Papua New Guinea to the eighth and final quarter-final berth. That prospect was dispelled after only 25 minutes in emphatic fashion.

By that stage, Papua New Guinea had moved into an impressive 18-0 lead. Kyle Laybutt opened the scoring with a fine solo try, before Nixon Putt and Jimmy Ngutlik had added further tries. In miserable conditions, that felt like a lead that would be too big for the Welsh to bridge, let alone without considering the required number of points they needed to score to qualify from Group D.

A Welsh squad almost entirely comprised of part-time players have shown plenty of spirit in a difficult group. That bodes well for the future but any flickering hopes of qualifying for the last eight were eroded here long before half-time. “This is a good group, they’ve improved over the past month so we’ll get ready to rock and roll for the next World Cup in 2025,” John Kear, the Wales coach, said.

You do wonder what Shaun Wane and his England players would have made of this professional display from Papua New Guinea. They have some eye-catching stars, including the NRL superstar, Alex Johnston, and are bound to cause the hosts problems at the weekend. Leading 24-0 at half time after Daniel Russell’s try, the Kumuls could perhaps afford to take their foot off the accelerator in the second half.

But their defensive resilience to keep Wales to nil was another impressive characteristic of their display. They extended their lead further shortly after the restart when Putt claimed his second, before Ngutlik did the same in the final minutes, with the result long since decided.

Can Papua New Guinea stun the world and beat the hosts on Saturday? Their coach thinks so. “This squad is special,” Tepend said. “England are a really good team and it’ll be a big test, but we’ll rest up. I think we do [have a chance]. The players will be ready.”