John Kear confident Wales can sign off from World Cup with win
Wales coach John Kear remains confident his side can end their World Cup drought after making Tonga work hard for their 32-6 victory in St Helens.
Kear’s part-timers performed valiantly, taking the lead with Kyle Evans’ 18th-minute try to the delight of the 7,752 crowd, but the pace, power and class of the world number two-ranked nation eventually took its toll.
Similarly stoic in their 18-12 defeat by Cook Islands, Wales must now rally against Papua New Guinea in their final Group D fixture if they are gain a first World Cup win for 22 years.
“We had five days to prepare for this and they’ve done a sterling job,” Kear said. “We’ve the luxury of seven days to prepare for PNG.
“These fellas deserve something, they really do. We were playing one of the top four ranked nations in the world – they are basically an NRL team and very good NRL team – and these fellas traded blows with them.
“They have a heart of lions and I’m very proud of them.
“Conversely we could have played better. We made too many errors, we can’t complete at 60 per cent against a team like that and expect to win.
“There are still areas we can fine tune, but I certainly can’t fault their heart, their effort and their endeavour.
“There are lots of plus points but a lot to work on if we are to keep improving.”
Wales captain Elliot Kear, who climbed to third place in his country’s list of most-capped players with 31, also believes their first win is around the corner.
“Everyone steps up when they play for Wales,” he said. “We just need to build on everything we’ve done in these last two games now and produce an 80-minute performance.”
John Kear was delighted with the display of Evans, who remains without a club for 2023 after Wakefield declined to offer him a new contract.
“He can feel very pleased and happy,” he said. “I just can’t understand why he hasn’t got a deal somewhere because he’s a very good player.”
Winger Daniel Tupou scored a hat-trick of tries on a satisfying night for Tonga’s former St Helens coach Kristian Woolf on his farewell appearance at the Totally Wicked Stadium.
“We made things hard for ourselves tonight,” Woolf said. “Our ball control wasn’t quite good enough and we probably left a large amount of points out there so there is plenty of improvement.
“But I thought our defence was good and we don’t want to be playing our best in the second game of the tournament.
“I think we were better tonight than we were last week and we will be better again next week.”
History was made with Kasey Badger becoming the first woman to referee a men’s World Cup match and both coaches sang her praises.
“I though Kasey did a great job,” Kear said. “It’s important for rugby league to take that step forward.”
Wolf added: “It was a great opportunity for her.
“It is a big occasion and she’s obviously done a great job in the NRL. She had a great opportunity there and she’s had a great opportunity tonight. It was great to see.”