Contributed by: Brett Northey Sunday, August 07 2005 @ 08:51 am ACST
After Round 3 of the International Cup a new powerhouse in international footy appears to be the USA, taking care of business against the gutsy Spaniards. Papua New Guinea appeared to run into form late against Great Britain, and Ireland got its running game going against South Africa. New Zealand continued to cruise, but notably the latest win was against the hard-running Japanese. This suggests the Kiwis now deserve outright favouritism for 2005. With the top four flexing their muscle Samoa needed to win to keep in touch, and did so in an amazing come from behind win over the luckless Canadians who seemed to have done enough to notch their first 2005 victory. So who are the likely top four finalists?
With just one more minor round to go, the battle is on four a spot in the top for that will go through and play semi-finals in a bid to win the coveted Grand Final spots, to be played on Saturday at the MCG before the Carlton versus Collingwood match. The most likely scenario emerging is that Ireland should beat Japan comfortably, in which case Samoa would have to destroy New Zealand to snatch fourth spot from the defending champions - an unlikely result. Or at least defeat NZ and hope the loser of the US versus PNG has their percentage dented badly enough. This is the standout fourth round match. On a large oval at Wangaratta PNG might go in slight favourites, but the US height will worry them. Given Great Britain pushed PNG the US should too, but it depends whether both sides put their best teams on the field - PNG were certainly "managing" their players today. With finals spots on the line, expect all the best players to line up - PNG in a tight one, but they will need to lift.
Ireland should be in good enough form to win comfortably against the Samurai, South Africa should regroup to beat Spain but the win will have to be earnt, and Canada versus Great Britain should be a top physical battle - the question is whether Canada can recover from the heartbreaking loss to Samoa (which almost blemished our tipping record). I'll tip the Northwind can find enough to win their first match. Samoa against New Zealand is the other top match. It will start with the Kiwi's Haka and the Samoan's Siva Tau, and should continue from there. Unless resting players, New Zealand should get the win in what will probably be wet conditions.
LADDER AT END ROUND 3