In a tight contest at the Teufaiva Sport Stadium in Nuku’alofa, Ben Volavola kicked three penalties while Leone Nakarawa got an important try to seal the win for Fiji.Both sides were locked at 3-all at half-time, according to Fiji Village.Tonga took the lead early in the second half after Siegfried Fisiihoi crossed over Fiji’s tryline.It took Fiji only two minutes to respond and Nakarawa scored Fiji’s only try in the 48th minute.Fiji will be pooled with Australia, Wales and Georgia in the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Photo by Fiji Rugby Union
Hosts Ireland won a nail-biting Women’s Rugby World Cup Pool C opener against battling Australia in Dublin.Larissa Muldoon’s converted first-half try, against a Mahalia Murphy score, had Ireland 7-5 ahead at the interval.Shannon Parry’s touchdown edged the Wallaroos in front but replacements Ciara Griffin and Sophie Spence crossed to put Ireland on the road to victory.The 2014 semi-finalists survived a late scare after prop Hilisha Samoa’s try was converted by Ashleigh Hewson.Ireland face Japan in their second group match on Sunday at the same venue, the UCD Bowl in Dublin, while Australia must try to re-group against France.Defending champions England opened up this year’s tournament by running in 10 tries in a 56-5 victory over Spain, while the USA beat Italy 24-12 in the other Pool B match.New Zealand and Canada are the favourites to progress from Pool A and both started with victories, the Black Ferns beating Wales 44-12 and Canada winning 98-0 against newcomers Hong Kong, while France thrashed 14-man Japan 72-14 in the other match in Pool C.Ireland aiming for semi-final repeatBereft of regular captain Niamh Briggs because of an Achilles injury, Ireland were led into the tournament by Claire Molloy as they set out to at least match their achievement of three years ago, when they lost to England in the last four.Ireland, the 2013 and 2015 Women’s Six Nations champions, went in as strong favourites, even though opponents Australia are just one place below them in the world rankings, in sixth.Their opponents had lost all five matches they had played since the 2014 competition, albeit against highly ranked sides in England, Canada and New Zealand.Australia have been concentrating on the Sevens version of the game, winning gold at the first Olympic tournament in Rio in 2016.Yet they dominated territory and possession in the opening 10 minutes, before Ireland started to pile on the pressure.Scrum-half Muldoon found a gap in the Australian defence midway through the half as he picked up and darted over for the match’s first try, Nora Stapleton converting.Australia were matching the Irish for physicality and responded eight minutes later when Murphy went over at full pelt in the corner after full-back Samantha Treherne sent an accurate looping ball over to the winger following a quick throw from a lineout.Treherne was unable to add the extra two points after the ball fell off the tee just as she was about to kick the conversion.Australia captain Parry barged over from close range 15 minutes after the resumption to nudge her side three points ahead, Treherne fluffing the conversion well wide of the posts.A powerful drive by Ireland’s forwards helped Griffin barge over for a converted try and Ireland looked to be well in control when Spence was adjudged by the television match official to have grounded the ball in the corner with 10 minutes left.Soon after, Samoa managed to twist and turn and dot the ball down at the other end despite the attention of four Irish defenders who were unable to halt the progress of the Australia prop.”That was a tough match. We knew Australia would be a physical side and they really put it up to us,” Ireland captain Molloy told ITV after the game.”I am proud of the grit, resilience and resolve shown by the girls. We knew we would create scoring opportunities if we stuck at it.”Ireland: H Tyrell; E Considine, J Murphy, S Naoupu, A Miller; N Stapleton, L Muldoon; L Peat, C Moloney, A Egan, P Fitzpatrick, ML Reilly, A Baxter, C Molloy, H O’Brien.Replacements: L Lyons, R O’Reilly, C O’Connor, S Spence, C Griffin, N Cronin, K Fitzhenry, M Coyne.Australia: S Treherne; N Marsters, K Sauvao, S Williams, M Murphy; T Pomare, K Barker; L Patu, C Campbell, H Samoa; C Butler, M Boyle; M Gray, S Parry (capt), G HamiltonReplacements: E Robinson, V Tupuola, H Ngaha, R Clough, A Hewett, F Hake, S Riordan, A Hewson.
Atkinson played more than 500 times for Leeds Rhinos and clocked up dozens of games for Great Britain during the 1960s and 70s.The former winger developed Alzheimer’s five years ago and was being cared for by his wife Carol Butterfield.Paying tribute, Leeds Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “He was one of those special players, a match winner.”Atkinson began his playing career with Leeds in 1966 after signing from Roundhay Rugby Union club.He amassed a total of 401 tries during his career, of which 340 were scored for Leeds, making him the second highest try scorer in the club’s history.His international career from 1968 to 1980 saw him in play in four world cups.In a tribute on the club’s website, Leeds Rhinos described him as a “majestic and flamboyant finisher” who “thrilled and entertained crowds in both hemispheres with his dash and bravado down the left flank”.The club said he specialised in the “spectacular, often long-distance tries” and that everyone who had seen him play would have their own “treasured memory of an ‘Atky’ special”.Earlier this year, his wife had spoken about the struggle of coping with her husband’s dementia as a result of having Alzheimer’s.Speaking to the BBC about his condition, she said: “He’s still very sweet and very gentle and there are parts of John that I recognise, but the saddest thing mostly is that John disappeared some time ago.”Leeds Rhinos players will wear black arm bands for their Boxing Day match at Wakefield and will hold a minute’s silence.
Eels centre Michael Jennings brings up the 250th game of a storied career that also includes seven Tests each for Tonga and Australia plus 18 Origins for NSW and a 2013 grand final win with the Roosters.However, the 30-year-old’s two younger brothers are much less experienced – 25-year-old George has battled back from a series of major injuries to finally get a chance and grab it with both hands at the Eels this year while 22-year-old Robert has evolved into a genuine first-grader over the past two seasons at Redfern.Limited opportunities for the younger two means Thursday’s game is the first time Robert and George have featured in the same NRL game.”Parra are obviously not where they want to be but they’ll be hungry coming off a solid win against the Cowboys so it’s going to be a really tough one – especially coming up against my brothers!” Robert laughed when asked by NRL.com how he was preparing for the Eels.”I’m on George and Michael’s side so there’s going to be a bit of talk out there. I came up against Michael last year but never came up against them both so it’s a first.Robert admitted it would be a relief this week that he doesn’t live at the family home in Sydney’s west with the other two, but anticipated the intra-family banter could ramp up as the game drew closer.”I just have to shut all that out and go out there and do my job and just get the two points. When you’re on the field it’s business,” he added.He was, however, incredibly proud of the way George had battled back from a series of injuries to be one of the struggling Eels’ most consistent players this year.In last weekend’s win over the Cowboys, the middle Jennings racked up a match-high 22 runs with a try, 180 metres and seven tackle busts.”Georgie’s doing really well. The team’s not where they want to be but George has really worked hard to get a spot and he’s been trying to get a spot for quite a while now so for me as a brother I’m very proud seeing him up there. But hopefully I get over him this weekend,” Robert added.
During the 2016 season, three weekly NRL matches will be aired on NBC as well as Digicel Play. The partnership will also see the ANZAC Test and the very popular State of Origin series aired on both networks.All remaining matches, including the PNG Hunters games and Digicel Cup, will be aired on Digicel Play.Digicel CEO, Mr Maurice McCarthy, said Digicel recognises that Rugby League and the NRL has a passionate following in PNG.”We want to work closely with PNG’s state broadcaster to allow both our viewers and NBC viewers the chance to see the action at home,” he said.”As the true home of Rugby League in PNG, Digicel Play offers an unbeatable service for our viewers. With Digicel Play and NBC we are reaching the whole of PNG.””PNG is going to experience NRL like they have never experienced it before and our partnership with NBC means key games will be free-to-air on NBC, as well as broadcast in high definition on Digicel Play,” Mr McCarthy said.Acting Managing Director of NBC, Kora Nou, said the availability of the NRL in every home in PNG with a TV set, and meant that the partnership was a win-win arrangement for both the NBC and Digicel Play.”We recognize that Rugby League is the national sport of PNG, and the NRL is the best club competition in the world. Through this partnership, there will be 100 percent NRL coverage across the country. Working together with Digicel means that the people of PNG can enjoy the NRL on whichever platform they choose.”As the State Broadcaster, one of our core functions is to provide real entertainment; when it comes to Rugby League, the NRL is as compelling as it gets,” he said.