Five Memorable Moments From The Rugby League 2017 World Cup

David Fusitu'a

The 2017 World Cup provided a fantastic advertisement for the myriad joys of watching rugby league, featuring ferocious battles, shock results and the closest final in decades.

Australia won their 11th title in 15 tournaments to further cement their dominance over the sport, but a valiant performance from England in the final made things interesting. Meanwhile, Tonga lit up the tournament with their on-field heroics and colourful support, and neutrals were treated to several enthralling clashes. Here are the top five moments from a memorable World Cup:

  1. The unstoppable Sipi Tau meets the immoveable Siva Tau

Tonga’s Sipi Tau and Samoa’s Siva Tau are each momentous displays of passion, intimidation and cultural heritage, enough to whip up frenzy inside a stadium. But when performed simultaneously they created a positively spine-tingling atmosphere.

The two island nations clashed in Hamilton’s Waikato Stadium, which was packed to the rafters with boisterous fans, and the teams decided to perform their war dances in unison. The Samoans began clapping to get the fans on their feet, and the Tongans threw down the gauntlet from across the pitch. The ferocious dance-off took place for two-and-a-half minutes as the fans went berserk and the Waikato Stadium became a cauldron of raucous noise.

Tonga earned a 32-18 victory, but what happened before the game reverberated around the world. The players knew they had been part of something special and linked up for a prolonged post-match huddle as supporters wept.

  1. Valentine breaks Fijian hearts

Australia winger Valentine Holmes was undoubtedly the star of the show at the 2017 World Cup. He became the first player to ever score five tries in a World Cup game when he put Samoa to the sword in the quarter-final, leading his team to a 46-0 rout.

That performance was astounding, but then he went one better in the semis, setting a new World Cup record with six tries against Fiji. That was the first time an Australian player had bagged six tries in a single match since Ken Irving against Italy in the 1960s, but that was not even a Test match, let alone a World Cup semi-final.

Holmes crossed 12 times in total over the course of the tournament, eclipsing the record set by Wendell Sailor in 2000. At just 22 years of age the future looks extremely bright for this extremely talented winger. He might even give the Sharks an outside chance in the NRL betting.

  1. A genuinely tense final

Australia have made a habit of steamrollering teams in the World Cup final: they played New Zealand in the previous three and won comfortably each time, including a 34-2 thumping in 2013. Given the outstanding form of Holmes and the crushing nature of their victories up to that point, the Kangaroos were expected to trounce England in the decider. But kudos to the English for making a game of it.

The final was not exactly full of thrills, but it was a tense, nervy affair. England’s defence remained resilient throughout, breached just once as Boyd Cordner crashed through to make it 6-0. Australia dominated but England had their chances and almost seized glory when Leeds centre Kallum Watkins broke through, only to be denied by Josh Dugan’s magnificent lunging ankle tap.

It was a titanic battle of brutal intensity and it showed that England can be a force to be reckoned with in future tournaments, which can only be a good thing for Australia as it should keep them on their toes.

  1. England withstand late Tonga pressure

The semi-final played out by England and Tonga culminated in a nerve-shredding finale. England were in control for 73 minutes and were cruising to the final, leading 20-0 and feeling supremely comfortable. Then Tonga exploded into life. Tevita Pangai Junior crashed over the line to give the Tongan fans something to cheer, but they went positively wild when Siliva Havili made it 20-12. Two minutes later, England’s advantage was reduced to just two points as Tuimoala Lolohea scored another try, and Tonga were suddenly within one score of a maiden World Cup final.

The partisan crowd roared them on and Andrew Fifita looked like he had won it for Tonga at the death, only to see his try ruled out. Cue a gigantic sigh of relief for England. It was a breathtaking end to the match and Tonga could leave with their heads held high.

  1. Tonga topple New Zealand

Before meeting England, Tonga pulled off a huge upset by overwhelming New Zealand in one of the greatest matches in World Cup history.

It started off with another spine-chilling showdown as the Haka met the Sipi Tau, but this time events during the game eclipsed the pre-match challenges. Tonga also found themselves in real trouble in this game, 16-2 down at half-time thanks to strong work from Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Jordan Rapana and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck. But they hit back in stunning fashion after the break, scoring four quick tries in a phenomenally dominant display.

David Fusitu’a was the star of the show, scoring a brilliant hat-trick, with the final one cancelling out a late second try from Tuivasa-Sheck to seal a 28-22 victory. This was the game of the tournament and it created history as it was the first time a tier-two nation got the better of a top tier country.

It was a fantastic achievement for a team made up of players born in Australia and New Zealand, and it vindicated decisions from the likes of Fifita, Fusitu’a, Jason Taumalolo, Manu Ma’u and Sio Siua Taukeiaho to represent their motherland, as they topped their group, beat Lebanon in the quarters and almost made the final after giving England the fright of their lives.

Walker joins Hornets coaching staff

Image source: @RochdaleOnline via Twitter

ROCHDALE Hornets have appointed recently retired player Anthony Walker to the club’s coaching team, as the Hornets make him a development coach.

Walker who played for St Helens, Wakefield Trinity, Rochdale Hornets, Whitehaven and the Dewsbury Rams.  The Wales forward had revealed on social media that he had to retire from the game due to an abnormality on his brain.

On ending his career due to a medical condition, he said: “It was really hard to take, especially finding out the day before I was supposed to go to Australia with Wales.

“I struggled the first day or two, but then I realised I have a nice family at home and there is more to life than rugby. My career was going to come to an end at some point, mine was just about seven years short. It was tough thinking you’re never going to put your gum-shield in and boots on ever again.

“I enjoyed my rugby with Rochdale and I’d hit some form, so I wanted to go back full-time if I could have, all good things come to an end though.”

On joining the club as a coach, Walker continued: “I spoke to Alan (Kilshaw) and Rammy (Dave Ramsbottom) when I found out I wouldn’t be playing anymore, because I just wanted to stay involved in the game.

 “I think it’s just the dressing room and the banter with the lads I would have missed more than the playing side. I’ve been coaching at Blackbrook for a couple of years now, and I always thought the next step in my coaching career would be in the professional game rather than six lads turning up at training.

“I’m young to be a coach so I’ve got many years of coaching ahead of me, but I just want to progress and learn and one day be an assistant, and so-on.”

Hornets head coach Kilshaw was pleased to have Walker join his coaching staff, especially after the traumatic news he had received.

“When any player is forced to retire due to injury it’s very unfortunate, however Anthony can look back on his career with great pride. He has played for his hometown club and contributed to successful seasons at Wakefield, Rochdale and Whitehaven.

“We have now put steps in place to help him with the next stage of his career, with him doing some community work for the foundation and coming onto the coaching team as a development coach.

“We are all very grateful for the support and care he has received by a number of different people, including the medical team at Rochdale, RL Cares and our player welfare manager Dave Ramsbottom.”

Bulls on the hunt for new head coach

BRADFORD Bulls are looking to appoint a new head coach after Geoff Toovey has left the club with his contract not being renewed, the favourite for the job is former Featherstone boss Jon Sharp.

On the Toovey decision, Co-owner Andrew Chalmers said: “Geoff joined us as we embarked on our journey to re-build the club. He worked tirelessly with the support of the football staff to try and overcome last season’s 12-point penalty.

“We would like to thank Geoff for stepping in at a difficult time and for the personal sacrifices he made to commit to last season, we wish him all the best in the future.”

Toovey added: “It was a tough decision not to return to the Bradford Bulls for a second year, last year was one of the most challenging years that I’ve had as a coach.

“The club and the fans made the experience one I will never forget, I’m confident the club will have an excellent season in 2018 and continue to move forward beyond the coming year.”

On moving forward to find a replacement, football manager Stuart Duffy said: “We have begun the process of recruiting a Head Coach. I stress that no one has been interviewed for the role as yet and we are looking for suitably experienced and qualified Coaches to send an expression of interest by Email to myself at the club by next Friday, 24th November.”

Owen makes Dons move

Image source: @Doncaster_RLFC via Twitter

DONCASTER have signed outside back from Richard Owen who has played for Super League sides Castleford Tigers, and Wakefield Trinity.

The 27 year old has played 150 games at Super League level, scoring 300 points and Owen is excited to be adding his experience to the Dons squad.

On arriving at the club, Owen said: “It’s the right time in my life to get back to playing rugby, Carl has made me feel really welcome and I feel that it’s a good club for me. I’ve had a few clubs interested but when I spoke to Richard Horne and Carl Hall they sounded genuine and that’s the sort of people I need in my life.

“I’m happy to play wherever the coach wants me, being back in the team environment is what I want so I’m buzzing to get started.”

Head coach Richard Horne added: “We’re happy to have Richard on board with us, he’s a quality player and will really add something to the squad we have.

“He has a lot of experience from his time in Super League and after speaking to him, he is very focused on helping us achieve our goal in pushing for promotion.”

“It’s great for us to have secured Richard Owen’s signature, meeting him was similar to when we signed Paul Cooke from the conversation we had.

“If Richard can have a similar impact then we’ll have a real good player on our hands, his experience of playing at the top level could be key for us.

“He feels the time is right for him to come back into the game, I would like to welcome him to our club and I’m sure the fans will do the same.” CEO Carl Hall said on Owen signing for the club.

Bent arrives in Oldham from Super League giants

Image source: @OldhamTimes via Twitter

OLDHAM have signed second-row forward Liam Bent on a permanent deal from Super League side Salford Red Devils.

The 19 year old played 17 times on loan at the Roughyeds last season, and wasn’t offered a new deal at Salford, and so has decided to sign for the Kingstone Press League One club on a permenant contract.

Chairman Chris Hamilton said on Bent’s arrival: “Liam was unlucky not to get another contract at Salford, a reflection of the changing situation there. We can improve his game, but he’ll give 100 per cent at all times. He works hard and he’s appreciated by team mates for his work ethic and terrific attitude.”

Head coach Scott Naylor added: “When Salford released him we were anxious to sign him before anybody else did. He showed in his 17 games for us last season that he was more than capable at Championship level, and he was only 19.

“Extremely professional in everything he does, he’s unbelievable in training and he’s meticulous in things like looking after himself and getting the right diet. He’s one of the nicest lads you could ever wish to meet and when you put him on a rugby field you know he’ll give everything he’s got. He’s a perfect match for the sort of squad we’re building here.”

 While Bent was gutted to not get a new contract at Salford, he is delighted to have signed for Oldham: “I definitely benefited from my time at Oldham last season and I loved every minute of it. I was really pleased when they came in for me to make me one of their own.

“They gave me opportunities last season and looked after me while I was there, so I was delighted to return the favour and show a bit of loyalty.

“I can’t wait to get going now, we return to training, but I’ve been doing a bit on my own for a few weeks, that’s me, I can’t do nothing, it’s not in my nature.”

Knights given green light on new home

YORK City Knights have been given some great news as the new community stadium plans have been signed off on and it means the build can now fully go ahead.

It means that work can start on the Monks Cross site, and the Community Stadium Leisure Complex will comprise of an 8,000 all-seat community sports stadium to host professional football and rugby league games. There will also be new leisure facilities incorporating a swimming pool, gym, dance studio, indoor and outdoor climbing facilities and a sports hall with spectator seating.

As well as the stadium itself, there is a commercial development on the stadium site which will feature a cinema complex, including an IMAX screen, five restaurants and up to three retail units.

On the announcement councillor David Carr, Leader of City of York Council said: “This is a huge step forward. I am delighted that this major project is at last moving forward with construction workers on site before Christmas.

“We have always been committed to delivering the Community Stadium and accompanying facilities which, once complete, will be a great asset for the city and residents”

Knights Chairman Jon Flatman added: “York City Knights would like to thank all parties for their commitment to the project and the growth of Rugby League as a sport in the city. The stadium provides us with a step change opportunity to deliver top class events suitable for people of all ages. We welcome the opportunity to continue to work in partnership to make the community of York proud of our sport and our club.”

Lingard discusses the importance of fitness

Image source: @Cougarmania via Twitter

KEIGHLEY Cougars boss Craig Lingard has spoken about the importance of fitness, and getting the team as fit and ready for the new season as he possible can, insisting that pre-season won’t be made easy.

He told the Keighley News: “I think we showed last year against full-time Toronto that, certainly when we played them at home, we were the stronger team coming up towards the end of the game.

“The boys are fit but if you’re looking after the ball, you’re always going to be a lot fitter because you’re not defending as much. We looked at games last year where we struggled and found we were completing at around 45 per cent, which isn’t good enough. It’s going to impact on your fitness levels if you’re doing that much defending.

“It comes hand in hand. If you’re fit and strong, we’ve also got to be sensible with the ball. We’ve got to execute correctly in order to maintain that fitness we have got.

“The facilities (at BGS) are brilliant, the gym is spot on and it’s a 3G all-weather pitch. I don’t think the guys are too happy with the amount of rowers and spin bikes, they will certainly be getting their money’s worth out of them.

“It’s not only important for us to get the resources that they’ve got, but also to try and look after our pitch as much as we can too. We’re going to try do a bit of renovation on that to make it a better quality surface for us to play on. So it’s important that we go and look elsewhere to train, and give it a bit of a rest.”

Riley makes Raiders move

Barrow

BARROW Raiders have signed 25 year old prop Glenn Riley who has joined the club on a one year deal.

Riley has played for Whitehaven and Super League side Warrington Wolves, and said it was difficult to leave the Cumbrian club.

On signing for Barrow, Riley said: “Its Championship rugby league, and I decided to take that step back up. I am really excited, I know quite a few of the boys there already. I have played with a few of them before and it will be good to get back on the field with them.

“There’s a buzz about the place, being promoted. We will try and maintain that place in the Championship and doing as well as possible, so it’s quite exciting times.

“I am a Whitehaven lad and I took quite a while to think about it, a lot of my family support Whitehaven and have been down there for years, and I got along with the boys and coaching staff really well.

“They offered me a contract again, but it was time to move on and play in a better league and higher standard. It was just that fact that it is a league above, I just want to play in that better standard of rugby, but is was quite a hard decision to be honest.

“It will be good to get a feel of where we are as a group, try and do well against those top teams and build from there, and even take a few scalps if we can.”

Rams boost squad with new additions

Dewsbury Rams

DEWSBURY Rams have signed two new players going into the new season, winger Rob Worrincy and former lonee, second-rower Billy Hayes, who have both signed one year deals at the club.

Worrincy used to play for Halifax and the Sheffield Eagles, whilst Hayes has come in from Betfred Super League side Huddersfield Giants.

 Head coach Neil Kelly said on his new signings: “Rob is going to bring vast experience and competition to the wing spots.

“That’s an area where I’m looking for significant improvement next year, while I am also pleased to have made Billy a Rams player after he impressed last season. I’m still looking to recruit a front rower to complement the middle players already at the club.”

On signing on the dotted line the 19 year old Hayes said: “I really enjoyed my loan spell with Dewsbury last season. I’d just turned 19, so I was the youngest at the club, but the fans and everyone else were very welcoming, and the lads all really helped me settle in.

“The chance to work with Neil again was a big reason behind me choosing to sign permanently. He gave me a chance by starting me at the Summer Bash and it really gave me confidence. He showed that he believed in me, and that’s what you want in a coach.

“My personal goals are to play as many Championship games as I can next season and to try and cement my position in the starting line-up. The club can definitely aim high next season, we had a solid finish to 2017 and hopefully we can take more steps forward next year.”

Meanwhile Worrincy commented on his arrival at the club: “This club is one that has an illustrious history and it’s a true heartland club, it’s a tough club with some honest people and hard-working players.

“I’m hoping to add some experience and an element of attacking strike to the team. The role of a winger has changed in the game and I’m hoping to help with my fair share of work across the field, and to finish the opportunities that come my way.

“I believe the team can have a positive 2018 campaign and look to improve on the 2017 season. We need to be competitive in each fixture we play and aim to be towards the top end of the table when the Super 8s arrive. I believe we can surprise a few teams in 2018.”

London Broncos appoint Danny Ward as head coach

Image source: @YEPSportsdesk via Twitter

LONDON Broncos have appointed a new head coach, with Danny Ward taking over the role, from Andrew Henderson who departed the club at the end of the last season.

Ward who was born in Dewsbury, signed for the Capital side as a player back in 2008, and has been at the club ever since, making 103 appearances for the club. He also played for Castleford Tigers, Hull Kingston Rovers and played 135 times for Leeds Rhinos.

He stepped up to be the club’s assistant head coach in 2015, after rising through the ranks as a coach in the academy teams.

On the new appointment Broncos chairman David Hughes said: ”Danny has been a fantastic servant to the club here in London under its many guises. London Broncos prides itself on having the ability to bring players through the system and now we are bringing through someone who we think has the ability to become a great Head Coach.”

Ward added: “I am absolutely over the moon, I have to thank the Chairman and CEO for giving me this fantastic opportunity and look forward to getting back into pre-season and starting to mould a side who can, again, make the push for promotion to the Super League.

“We have some great players at this club and I hope to give each and every one of them the benefits of my experiences and hope that we can bring out the best in what I know is a very talented group. We already have a team in place, behind the scenes, who all know how the next one thinks and so the transition from the previous Head Coach should be relatively smooth and trouble free.”