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George Clarke

PM's XIII splutter to win over Papua New Guinea

Coach Mal Meninga has plenty to think about after a PM's XIII struggled against Papua New Guinea. (Mike Egerton/AAP PHOTOS)

Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga will leave Port Moresby with more questions than answers after Australia's Prime Minister's XIII survived a scare to edge past their Papua New Guinea counterparts in an unconvincing 30-18 win.

Against a PNG side boasting only a handful of players with NRL experience, the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans and Ben Hunt were made to fight for every inch in front of a passionate home crowd at the National Football Stadium.

It was only when Dragons whizz Tyrell Sloan scored in the 78th minute that Australia could breathe easily after a nail-biting finish when the PNG outfit threatened to cause an upset.

Meninga's team made 15 errors on Saturday and the Kangaroos coach would have been left with plenty to ponder ahead of next month's Tests against New Zealand and Samoa.

Hunt, whose role in the Kangaroos side is assured as part of his hooking partnership with Harry Grant, was one of the few who stepped up, having a hand in two tries for Australia.

Cherry-Evans saved his best touch until late in the contest, chipping over the top for Sloan to regather to clinch the game.

The Manly No.7 lost his halfback berth to Nathan Cleary at last year's World Cup and if this was his final pitch, the Penrith playmaker need not fret. 

It was the first time PNG had hosted this fixture since 2018 and Australia's sloppiness continued to invite a gallant and workmanlike home side back into the game.

The PM's XIII were stunned when wantaway Leeds centre Nene Macdonald touched down in the opening five minutes to send the home crowd barmy.

While North Queensland's Murray Taulagi and lively Canberra backrower Hudson Young pulled Australia out to a 12-6 lead at halftime, the PNG side wouldn't go away with Souths Logan forward Cruise Ten barging over after the break.

Alofiana Khan-Pereira and Cameron McInnes hit back for Australia but they couldn't take their foot off the gas. 

Epel Kapinias burst through to cut Australia's lead to six points with less than 10 minutes left but Sloan's late finish sealed victory for Meninga's men. 

Earlier in the day, Australia trampled PNG in the women's encounter with Wests Tigers winger Jakiya Whitfeld scoring four tries in a 56-4 win.

Canberra Raiders hooker Ua Ravu bagged PNG's only try from close range. 

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