Wayne Bennett forced to wait as RFL launch review into dismal Lions tour

Under-fire: Wayne Bennett (Picture: SWPix.com)
Under-fire: Wayne Bennett (Picture: SWPix.com)
0
Have your say

The Rugby Football League has insisted there will be no knee-jerk reaction to Great Britain’s tour flop.

The re-formed Lions will return to the UK having lost all four matches, culminating in an embarrassing 28-10 defeat by Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby on Saturday.

No way through: Great Britain's Tom Burgess is held by the Papua New Guinea defence. (Picture: SpidertekPNG/SWpix.com)

No way through: Great Britain's Tom Burgess is held by the Papua New Guinea defence. (Picture: SpidertekPNG/SWpix.com)

The results increase the pressure on national coach Wayne Bennett, who has come to the end of his contract with the RFL but chief executive Ralph Rimmer spoke in the week about not making any decision on his future until the completion of a wide-ranging review.

And, in a statement published in the wake of Saturday’s upset, the governing body says nothing has changed.

The statement said: “Like everyone involved on the tour, we are obviously bitterly disappointed by the results of the Test matches – for those loyal and passionate supporters who have followed the team in New Zealand and Papua New Guinea and for everyone backing the team from home.

“As stated last week, an objective review of all aspects of the tour will take place when the tour party returns and that timetable has not altered.”

My contract is up now so I’ll just wait and see and have some discussions.

Wayne Bennett

Bennett has maintained he wants to finish the job he began in 2016 by staying on for England’s 2020 Ashes series and the 2021 World Cup.

And, in the post-match press conference in Port Moresby, Bennett insisted he still has the appetite to continue in the role.

“I don’t think anyone can say I haven’t got that,” he said. “I don’t think I show any of that anyway, that I don’t have the appetite for it.

“But it’s not my decision now. I’ll talk to some people and see what’s going on and take it from there.

“My contract is up now so I’ll just wait and see and have some discussions.

“But tonight is not a good night to make decisions – you’re emotional and not in a good place, coaching has taught me that much.

“You don’t make decisions within 24 hours.”

The Lions got off to the worst possible start, losing captain James Graham with a head knock in the very first tackle, which meant an early introduction for Luke Thompson and less impact from the bench.

Yet it was a promising opening quarter from the tourists, with makeshift winger Blake Austin involved in most of the early play and it was the Warrington stand-off who opened the scoring after 14 minutes, taking Jake Connor’s pass to dive over at the corner.

It looked to be plain sailing for Bennett’s men when hooker Josh Hodgson squeezed over for a second try after 21 minutes and Gareth Widdop added the conversion to extend their lead to 10-0.

But Leeds Rhinos forward Rhyse Martin believes Papua New Guinea’s first try on the stroke of half-time was a game changer.

The Kumuls spent most of the first half on defence until substitute Edwin Ipape scored a 65-metre breakaway try that brought them back into the contest.

They went on to score four tries without reply in the second half, with Martin landing three conversions to wrap up a second win over Great Britain, following the Kumuls’ only previous triumph in 1992.

“I think we built off last week’s game,” said Martin, referring to Papua New Guinea’s 22-20 defeat by Fiji. “That competitive edge that we’ve got.

“Tonight we were lucky in being able to turn some of the forced errors into points and then we just defended for each other. That try on half-time was just a momentum killer. In the first 20 we just couldn’t slow them down, they were killing us through the middle of the field with quick play-the-balls.

“We were on the back foot. And then Edwin found some space and that changed the game for us.

“Going into half-time four points down makes a massive difference.”

Watson Boas – who plays for League One club Doncaster – Justin Olam, Alex Johnston and Nixon Putt scored the second-half tries that earned the Pacific Islanders a famous victory.

The Kumuls have now won their last six internationals at home going back to 2009 and are are undefeated at the new stadium after previously toppling Wales, Ireland and the USA in the 2017 World Cup.

Martin admits playing in front of a capacity 15,000 crowd lifts his side.

“This crowd is always outstanding to play in front of,” he said.

“When we’re under the pump and they’re cheering us on, it definitely gives you a lot more energy especially when you’re fighting the demons with the fatigue.

“They definitely got us through tonight.”

Cook Islands claimed the last place at the 2021 World Cup with a 38-16 win over the United States in the final qualifying match at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.