The United Kingdom Armed Forces Rugby League side face a must win clash with the hosts Australia in Sydney tomorrow (July 9), if they are to have any chance of winning the Armed Forces World Cup.

Following a humbling opening 40-20 defeat to Fiji, the UK team must win both their remaining pool games if they are to make the final on July 16, starting with a win against Australia, something they have not managed since they won the trophy in the inaugural competition in 2009, again in Sydney.

Their task will be all the tougher after the hosts demolished the New Zealand 64-8, at Ringrose Park, Cabramatta, the same ground where the UK men must salvage their tournament, before facing the Kiwis on July 12 at Windsor Stadium, Sydney.

“In some ways that result makes things easier for us as we now know we have to win both games if we are to go on and win the trophy. The other thing I also know is this side is not done, they are gutted in the changing rooms, they have not played and although the rest of the teams may see this and think, ‘Oh well that’s them done’, I know it isn’t.

“These lads are far from beaten”, said Head Coach Flt Lt Damian Clayton following the UK Armed Forces Rugby League sides 40-20 opening Festival of World Cup match defeat at the hands of Fiji at St Mary’s Stadium, Sydney.

Clayton added: “You cannot win a game of rugby league with a 43 per cent completion rate, which is what we had in the first half. There were far too many handling errors and basic mistakes, but even with 20 minutes to go I thought we would go on and win it.”

The unknown quantity of the Fijian side proved to be uncontrollable for a UKAFRL side who began in disjointed fashion and spent the remainder of the first half chasing their tails.

Unable to get going and the signs were ominous when Jone Tuiveresa cut through for Fiji before slipping on the 10-metre line.

The let off went unheeded by the UK side who were trading blows with their opponents, but after good work from a dropping ball, vice captain Cpl James Hutchinson threw a loose pass and an interception led Marika Tagicakibau running in from 30-metres for an unconverted try.

Continued missed decisions and interferences by the referee did nothing for the UK men, with continual gains from moving off the tackle being missed, giving the Fijians vital seconds and inches as Clayton’s men tried to build attacks.

Cfn George Clarke and Mne Jamie Birdsall then sparked a good break seeing good ball skills, but the underused Sgt Si Wray could not complete the move after eight minutes.

Moments later Wray got a knee in the back for his efforts trying to collect a dropping ball after a clever kick from SAC(T) Adam Flintham on 11 minutes.

A penalty against LETME James Parry, for flopping on the tackle, was then kicked by Iliekena Ninmataiwalu for 6-0 after 15 minutes, which quickly became 12-0 three minutes later.

Flintham’s gutsy kick and charge saw the pocket rocket force the Fijian’s back on to their try line, but he was not backed up and the pressure came to nothing as the Fijian powerhouse Selvanaia Koroi ran over the defence to score for 22-0.

Good work from Flintham lifted his team mates and in the 32nd minute his brilliant reverse pass, after two good sets of six, saw Sgt Dave Hankinson cross the try line, with stand off AB Ryan Matthews converting.

When they completed their sets the UK team caused havoc amongst their opponents, but as soon as an inch was gained two points were added by Ninmataiwalu with another penalty after Brown ripped the ball.

A battling start after the break saw Clarke produce some big hits and move the ball well, with captain LAET Ben Taylor and vice captain Hutchinson all beginning to push the Fijians and then a moment of magic from SAC(T) Jordan Andrade saw him run over for a converted try by Matthews for 24-12 after 50 minutes. Moments later Birdsall was through, but a forward pass from Flintham saw the score wiped out.

Just as an extended period of UK pressure looked on, Fiji bundled the ball over on 55 minutes and the unconverted try was followed four minutes later with a further six points as Ropate Tobe fed Koroi to score out on the UKAFRL right.

Minutes later a shadow fell over the game when Birdsall was knocked unconscious and had to be stretchered from the pitch following extensive treatement, after a straight arm tackle from Esermoa Melo Kasinalavu.

The disgusting challenge saw the player red carded and subsequently banned from the tournament, while the UKAFRL second row is now likely to miss the rest of the World Cup round robin matches under concussion rules.

Having stopped the clock for the treatment of Birdsall, Wray dived over out wide with Matthews hitting the upright with the conversion on 68 minutes, while another good chance going begging as Spr Kev Brown just could not collect when well placed on the 10-metre line having been fed by Parry.

A school boy error from Aaxon Vadira, who having broke around the back held on to the ball and shadowed by Sgt Lee Queeley ran out of play, failing to score.

With three minutes left Parry nearly finished off a good move, but he just could not hold on to the ball and the game was well and truly gone.

Tagicakibau then ran over in the last minute, with Niumataiwalu converting on the hooter for 40-20.

You can follow the team’s progress on Facebook at: United Kingdom Armed Forces Rugby League or on Twitter: @UKArmedForcesRL with full game highlights on YouTube at: ukafrl2017.