LONDON - Gold Coast flyer David Mead was left devastated after missing a late penalty in front of the posts to cruelly deny Papua New Guinea a first Rugby League World Cup victory in 13 years.
The Kumuls fell 9-8 to France on Sunday despite scoring two tries to the victors' one in their Group B encounter in Hull.
Star NRL winger Mead failed to convert both of PNG's tries but had a golden chance to secure victory after his side earned a penalty 25m out from the French tryline with a minute to play.
But he failed to factor in a strong breeze at Craven Park and his effort sailed wide as coach Adrian Lam and high performance director Mal Meninga watched on in horror.
Lam said it was unfair to blame Mead, who assumed the responsibility with the squad not featuring a specialist goalkicker.
"David is devastated," Lam said of Mead, who has battled back from suffering a fractured vertebrae earlier this year.
"He's a great young man and we spoke with him about how he's not to blame. He is a big part of our side.
"He's not a week in, week out goalkicker and we don't have one. That's the problem.
"He's blaming himself but there are a couple of other things we could have done better."
Lam said he was both proud and disappointed with the performance.
The rugby league-mad nation still has a chance to progress from the group, which also features New Zealand and Samoa.
"If we kick the goal it's a great night, so now we have to pick ourselves back up off the ground. We couldn't convert our opportunities," Lam said.
France halfback William Barthau kicked what proved the decisive field goal with 15 minutes to go as France avenged losing to PNG at the 2000 World Cup, the Kumuls' last Test win.