YEP chief rugby league writer Peter Smith provides his highlights and lowlights from the RLWC2013.
Best atmosphere: More than 18,000 fans turned up at Headingley Carnegie to see holders New Zealand take on Papua New Guinea. It was a mis-match, but the way the crowd got behind Papua made it an unforgettable night. ‘Oh Papua New Guinea’.
Biggest blunder: Against Tonga, Cook Islands prop Sam Mataora played the ball in the wrong direction and in the same game his team-mate Jordan Rapana spilled it – with no defender in sight – over the line. But the classic was Sonny Bill Williams storming over for New Zealand against Samoa and slipping across the dead ball line before touching down.
Best try: Kiwi winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck’s first touchdown against England at Wembley was a stunner, from one edge to the other, culminating in Dean Whare’s almost impossible try-creating pass.
Biggest hit: Italy forward Cameron Ciraldo suffered a ruptured pancreas after being flattened – legally – by Tonga centre Konrad Hurrell (and he got up and tried to play on). Honourable mention for David Mead, of PNG, on Kiwi Bryson Goodwin.
Best war dance: There were some belters, but Tonga’s was the classic.
Top quote: “Absolutely not, you people are just making things up to try and disrupt my squad.” England boss Steve McNamara denying disciplinary issues in the camp, just days before Zak Hardaker left and was fined by his club Leeds for unprofessional behaviour.
Best player: Australia stand-off Johnathan Thurston scored a record points tally, collected numerous man of the match awards and must now be considered one of the Kangaroos’ greats.
Best story: Terry Matterson signed on as USA coach just two weeks before the tournament started, while his team paid their own way and had just one training session ahead of their first match, but America still topped their group and reached the quarter-finals.
Best sportsmanship: After every game Fiji gathered their opponents for a group prayer. It was an electrifying, moving moment. Runners-up: New Zealand, who visited beaten opponents France and Scotland’s changing rooms for a post-game beer and a chat.
Worst game: The first semi-final was a tough act to follow and the second, at the same venue, was an anti-climax as Australia crushed Fiji 64-0. And the stadium was virtually empty by the end.