By STEVE MASCORD
SCOTLAND deliberately maximised the embarassment of rugby league officials by announcing as the most important game in their history kicked off that their funding had been completely withdrawn.
New Zealand cruised through the World Cup quarter-final at Headingley as expected, winning 40-4 to set up a semi-final appearance with England with centre Bryson Goodwin and winger Roger Tuivasa-Sheck each posting try braces.
Their only real complication was an ugly, if accidental, incident which left superstar Sonny Bill Williams with a jarred neck.
But officials of the Rugby Football League, who until now had been basking in the glory of successful and profitably tournament, copped a PR barrage as the teams ran out when Scotland Rugby League posted on Facebook: “The RFL have withdrawn their funding from across the Celtic nations …
“There are no staff working on or on behalf of Scotland Rugby League until the Rugby League International Federation make a decision on any future funding for Scotland.”
Bravehearts coach Steve McCormack refused to be drawn on the issue after the quarter-final and SRL chairman Keith Hogg did not immediately return Fairfax Media‘s phone calls.
But it is understood the SRL had received inquiries about the issue throughout the week leading up to the match and had decided to maximise the impact of the news by announcing it when the eyes of the rugby league world were on its team.
The Rugby Football League, which overseas the game in Britain, is funded by Sport England – an anomaly when it comes to passing on that funding to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The RFL’s funding has been cut by Stg10 million over the next four years.
“I know they haven’t got a lot of money – I didn’t know they’ve now got none,” said former NSW five-eighth Peter Wallace, who has represented Scotland for the first time in this tournament.
“Hopefully how we’ve gone in this tournament … maybe the Scotland government can get behind rugby league in Scotland.”
For New Zealand, who led 26-0 at halftime, minor injuries and some lack of concentration were the only negatives coach Stephen Kearney could point to.
Williams packed into the next scrum following his mishap at prop before getting a very early shower, while winger Manu Vatuvei came off with a groin injury and captain Simon Mannering was also given a long rest.
Tuivasa-Sheck was a popular man of the match after tries in the 19th and 29th minutes. “He’s a young man of 20 years old yet some of the stuff he does makes it look like he’s been around for 10 years,” said Kearney.
“Yet it’s instinctive.”
The return of Kevin Locke as first-choice fullback was deemed a success and Kearney said the decision between the Warriors custodian and Josh Hoffman for the Wembley semi-final would be difficult.
“After halftime, we could have been a bit more ruthless,” said Kearney, who added “eighty per cent of the side is pretty much fixed or set”.
NEW ZEALAND 40 (Bryson Goodwin 2, Roger Tuivasa-Sheck 2, Jesse Bromwich, Frank Pritchard, Shaun Johnson, Manu Vatuvei tries; Johnson 4 goals) beat SCOTLAND 4 (Alex Hirst try) at Headingley. Referee: Ben Cummins (Australia). Crowd: 16,207.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD