Image Source: Hong Kong Rugby Page
The first game against Hong Kong was an ice breaker for the PNG Pukpuks, setting the momentum for what was expected to be an even bigger challenge, against the Russians.
Russia dominated possession in the opening minutes of the first half, with captain Viktor Gresev scoring the first of his hat-trick tries. It was just minutes till Gresev scored his second, as PNG was penalised for repeated infringements at the ruck.
At 20 minutes, the Russians led 21 nil, placing immense pressure on the Pukpuks to better their performance and avoid an embarrassing loss, much the same against Hong Kong.
Pukpuks leading try scorer and captain, Tisa Kautu, picked up off an intercept making way for Stanis Susuve to score PNG’s first try, but an unsuccessful conversion by fullback Jon Kent placed PNG behind, three tries to one.
A striking Russian attack saw two more tries in the opening half as defending champions secured a bonus point only 20 minutes into the first half, when scrumhalf Anton Ryabov crossed over for a try in the 26th minute, and just minutes later another five points were conceded, as Hooker Valery Tsnobiladze scored Russia’s fifth try.
Pukpuks Captain, Tisa Kautu, later added the final three points of the first half for PNG with a penalty shortly before half-time as Russia took a comfortable 35-8 lead into the break.
In the second half, Russia were less convincing, while Papua New Guinea got off to a flying start, scoring 11 unanswered points from two penalties by Kautu and a try to flyhalf Richard Aitsi to close the gap to 35-19.