Kumuls make it difficult for Kiwis

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New Zealand 22 Papua New Guinea 6

New Zealand set up a Halifax Centenary World Cup semi-final against Australia and put some of their recent troubles behind them last night, but were flattered by their margin of victory over plucky opponents whose only failure was in not turning some admirable play into more points.

Papua New Guinea started badly, conceding two converted tries in the first eight minutes. The first came from their inability to deal with a bomb from Gary Freeman, picked as hooker but packing at loose forward, which David Buko allowed Matthew Ridge to take it out of his arms.

The second stemmed from smart handling by Stacey Jones and Tony Kemp to send in Richie Blackmore.

After that, the Kumuls were the better side for the rest of the half. Adrian Lam organised a series of promising moves and New Zealand had to defend well to restrict them to a penalty from Elias Paiyo.

PNG deserved better and would have had it if a brilliant tackle from Henry Paul had not stopped Lam in full flight.

Despite being under steady pressure for the best part of half an hour, New Zealand extended their lead through two penalties from Ridge.

The Kumuls continued to threaten New Zealand, James Kops, getting over the try line but the referee, Stuart Cummings, had already blown for offside.

Gene got over himself only to be held up as PNG played all the best rugby without reward.

PNG finally got the try they richly deserved when Marckus Bai went 40 yards to score in the 71st minute. Paul and Blackmore paved the way for Sean Hoppe to restore a respectable lead before the end, but it was the Kumuls that the Knowsley Road crowd rose to acclaim on the final hooter.

NEW ZEALAND: Ridge (Manly, capt); Hoppe (Auckland), Blackmore (Auckland), Wiki (Canberra), Williams (Sydney Bulldogs); Paul (Wigan), Jones (Auckland); Pongia (Canberra), Freeman (Penrith), Lowrie (Sydney City), Kearney (Auckland), Horo (Sydney Wests), Kemp (Leeds). Substitutes: Okesene (Auckland) for Lowrie, 48; T Iro (Sydney City) for Kemp, 53; K Iro (Leeds) for Wiki, 57; Ngamu (Auckland) for Ridge, 64.

PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Buko (Goroka); Kops (Hagen Eagles), Gomia (Goroka), Okul (Moorebank), Kouoru; Gene (Goroka), Lam (Sydney City, capt); Yer (Mendi Muruks), Paiyo (Port Moresby), Westley, Tiri, Angra (both Hagen Eagles), Mamando. Substitutes: Biri (Port Moresby) for Angra, 54; Solbat (Rabaul) for Westly, 61; Bai (Port Moresby) for Yer, 70.

Referee: S Cummings (England).

n The Kiwi captain Matthew Ridge has had a recurrence of a cartilage injury. "He is very sore but we have nine days to work on him," Frank Endacott, the New Zeland coach, said.