Rugby League Around the Grounds
Despite the wet and miserable conditions, both teams were fired up and both sets of supporters were in full voice at New Era Stadium, with a place in the final up for grabs.
It was a sloppy opening 20 minutes for both sides as the ground became increasingly wet and conditions turned the game into a back and forth fight for field position and completion rates. Both Niue and Greece had plenty of opportunities in the opening quarter, but a mixture of handling errors, penalties and the weather made sure that it was going to be a grind. A penalty goal in the 19th minute by Sam Stratis broke the deadlock, giving Greece a 2-0 lead.
Finally, after 24 minutes of play, Greece crossed the line, the beneficiaries of more wet weather handling errors. An attacking chip over the top by Greece’s Tremaine Terzis bounced up awkwardly for the Niue fullback, who couldn’t reel the ball in and knocked on, only for Greece’s Jake Vrahnos to pick it up and dive over. game. Sam Stratis converted for a 8-0 Greek lead.
Niue finally got their first points through one of the best solo tries seen at the tournament so far. Big prop Wesley Lolo showed his dominance up front all game, but it resulted in points for Niue when a barnstorming run left defenders clutching at air as he barged down field. With some agile feet and a killer fend, he dismissed the fullback and supporting winger before dropping down over the line for the try. Eddie Paea added the extras to reduce the deficit to 8-6.
Despite a few late attacking sets by Niue, they weren’t able to convert them into points and Greece took an 8-6 lead into the sheds at half time.
Niue took the lead just six minutes into the second half through Justice Utatao. A dummy and go leading to the line break by the five-eighth allowed him to draw in the fullback and find his winger in support who was able to go over and give Niue their first lead of the game. The conversion was successful by Eddie Paea.
A third try for Niue came 56 minutes in off the back of a set scrum piece. A dropped kick by Greece gave Niue the perfect field position and they took full advantage off it. Straight out of the scrum, quick hands allowed a fast paced right hand spread which forced the overlap and the try for Cyruss Payne in the corner. The conversion was unsuccessful, and Niue led 16-8.
The final 10 minutes saw the desperation of Greece come out. With time and the scoreboard against them, Greece had a few opportunities to close the gap and bring the game to within a scoring play. But the Niue defence stood strong and kept Greece at bay as they hang on for a 16-8 victory to march their way into the final, where they will meet Malta. Greece will play Turkey for the bronze.
Tries – Wesley Lolo, Justice Utatao, Cyruss Payne
Goals – Eddie Paea (2)
Tries – Jake Vrahnos
Goals – Sam Stratis (2)
Niue: Latrell Schaumkeil, Cyruss Payne, Christian Ulukita, Tuki Jackson, Justice Utatao, Zebastian Luisi, Eddie Paea, Sione Tovo, Tamati Ulukita, Wesley Lolo, Jacob Samoa, Tristan Alibrado, Michael Filimona, Temata Rangi, Kurt Bernard, Alex Seini, Aziah Ikitule, Hendrix Folau
Greece: Laurence Zarounas, Dimos Kartsonakis, Mitchell Zampetides, Sam Stratis, Nick Mougios, Alex Zarounas, Tremaine Terzis, Staganos Bastas, Peter Mamouzelos, Billy Tsikrikas, Adam Vrahnos, George Tsikrikas, Jake Vrahnos. Interchange: Clinton Hughes, Giannis Rosoglou, Robert Tuliutu, Kosta Katsidonis, Nathan Hughes