Papua New Guinea were left gutted after their late World Cup loss Tonga, but believe as a nation they are a rising force.
The Kumuls pushed the Mate Ma’a all the way in an absorbing 24-18 encounter at St Helens.
Only Keaon Koloamatangi try with three minutes left proved the difference between the two Pacific nations on greater Merseyside.
Papua New Guinea fullback Alex Johnston admitted conceding in the final minutes to lose the game was gutting.
“It was a tough one, a tough pill to swallow,” he said.
“To lose in that way…We crossed a couple of times and think we should have had the lead, so to lose on the bell it’s heart-breaking.
“I’ve been part of some great wins with the Kumuls but even in this loss we came here on a mission that the Kumuls are rising, and even in this loss we definitely showed that.”
Papua New Guinea captain Rhyse Martin agreed with his teammate, and believes his team has shown that are among the world’s best.
“Definitely we’ve just shown that we’re up there,” Martin said.
“To not get the win tonight comes down to a few little things in the second half but the way we hung in there, teams will have to get up when they play us because If we keep playing like that we’re going to be hard to beat.
“The scrum decision before halftime where we could have taken the two points, I don’t know why the penalty went against us there.
“I think it was three disallowed tries as well. If we get those we have the lead and it’s a totally different ball game.”
The Kumuls face the Cook Islands in their next World Cup match.