Greece coach Steven Georgallis admitted he struggled to put into words just how proud he was of his players despite their Rugby League World Cup debut ending in a 34-12 defeat to France.
Arthur Morgue’s 18-point haul and two tries for second row Benjamin Jullien consigned the Titans to defeat in Group A but they did not go down without a fight in Doncaster, producing arguably two of the best moments of the tournament so far in the second half.
First 18-year-old Siteni Taukamo scored Greece’s first ever World Cup try following a smart kick from captain Jordan Meads to send the crowd wild.
Then in the dying moments Nick Mougiou collected Meads’ cross-field kick before rounding full-back Morgan Escare for a sensational score to ensure Greece had the final word on an entertaining and historic night of rugby league in South Yorkshire.
“Words can’t describe how I am feeling at the moment about the way the boys played,” said Georgallis. “I’m just so proud.
“I know I keep saying it, but I am just so proud of the effort our players put in. You have to remember we were playing a fully professional team.
“There are only four or five in our team that are professionally trained, some do it as a second job and some don’t even do it as a job.
“To score that try right at the end just sums up how much it meant to the entire team.
“France showed us respect but we earnt that respect via the way we were playing. The second half was only 14-12 so that, combined with the spirit we showed, just makes me so proud.”
Given the fact the 13-a-side game was illegal just six months ago in Greece, Georgallis’ side’s inspired showing was all the more impressive and the head coach also revealed that the Titans’ first try hero, teenager Taukamo, very nearly missed out on the trip to England.
The youngster, who revealed after the game that he had dreamt about scoring, was a late addition having not been included on the original squad list.
“Siteni (Taukamo) was at the point earlier this year where we thought we couldn’t take him,” explained Georgallis. “We knew about him after his brother played for us a few years ago.
“But because he was only 17-years-old, we weren’t sure he could play. Then we worked out he turned 18 the same week as our first game.
“So it was his birthday last Saturday which meant he could play today. But we tried to keep the celebrations low key!”
Meanwhile, France coach Laurent Frayssinous said he was pleased to come through a tough test in their opening match against the tournament debutants with a huge clash against hosts England to come on Saturday in Bolton.
France scored five tries of their own, with stand-off Arthur Mourgue impressing wit 18 points and Benjamin Jullien dotting down twice.
No prizes for guessing who set up the best try of #FRAGRE.
— Newtown Jets (@newtownrlfc) October 17, 2022
And Frayssinous revealed he wasn’t surprised Greece put in such a competitive performance.
He said: “When you look at their spine, (Bill) Magoulias, Lach Ilias and Chaise Robinson, they are all playing NRL, so they are obviously a good side.
“And our boys did a really good job on them because they are all quality players.
“So only conceding two tries through kicks is actually a good thing.
“I was pretty happy with the first-half performance, but there are two or three things we need to improve on.
“We will look to work on our kicking game and our last play, but if we do that we will be tough to beat.”
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