24 Oct 2022
Kear hails 'lion-hearted' Welsh display
The head coach believes Wales are gaining plenty of respect
By Andrew Lawton at the Totally Wicked Stadium
John Kear hailed his ‘lion-hearted’ Welsh players after they gave highly-fancied Tonga a fright in St Helens.
Having run Cook Islands close in Leigh, Wales were quick out the blocks again and opened the scoring through Kyle Evans’ converted try to raise hopes of a stunning shock.
Daniel Tupou’s hat-trick extinguished those ambitions as the flying wing led the Tongan fightback but Kear did not let the 32-6 scoreline dampen his praise for the character in his squad.
Kyle Evans makes his mark. #RLWC2021 #TONWAL | @WalesRugbyL @BBCSport pic.twitter.com/Brxe20EjWq
— Rugby League World Cup 2021 (@RLWC2021) October 24, 2022
He said: “I would like to think we earned more respect, because we are playing one of the top four ranked nations in the world. I looked down and it’s basically an NRL team and a very good one.
“Our players traded blows with them, went punch for punch with them, they’ve got hearts of lions and I’m very proud of them.
“We could have played better, we made too many errors in the second half. There’s areas we can fine tune and improve technically and tactically but you certainly can’t fault their heart and the endeavour.
“There’s lots of plus points but there’s also some things we need to learn from and progress with if we’re going to keep improving as a team and they are improving as a team.”
Wales now have just one chance left to register their first World Cup victory since 2000 when they meet Papua New Guinea next week in Doncaster, though they’ve not won a match against Southern Hemisphere since that occasion 22 years ago.
But Kear believes rewards could be on the way if they keep fronting up as they have been and picked out several individuals for praise.
Absolutely landed. #CymruRL | @RLWC2021 | @HaysTravel | @PhotoMks pic.twitter.com/14ElpbC9Mj
— Wales Rugby League (@WalesRugbyL) October 24, 2022
“I was really pleased with how we handled David Fifita,” he said. “He was going at Ollie Olds, who handled it really well, and as a group we helped each other out.
“Kyle [Evans] carried the ball brilliantly, his high ball reception was really good and the try he scored was a cracker.
“He can feel very pleased and happy with his performance. I don’t know if Wakefield have offered him another deal but I can’t understand if he hasn’t got one, he’s a good player.
“These fellas deserve something from this tournament. I’ve worked with them day in, day out and they deserve something, they really do.
“Twelve of our 24 are Welsh-born, which I’m really proud of. We need to stick with it and we’re not far away. That was a Welsh performance full of pride and passion.”
The Rugby League World Cup promises to be the biggest, best and most inclusive event in the sport’s 127-year history with men’s, women’s and wheelchair teams competing in 61 games across 21 venues throughout England. Tickets are available via rlwc2021.com/tickets