Around 60 prisoners broke out of Bomana jail in the Papua New Guinea capital, Port Moresby, on Sunday.
The National newspaper reports the escapers got away while police were transfixed by the international rugby league clash between an Australian Prime Minister's XIII and the PNG PM's XIII.
The inmates reportedly cut the jail's fence to get out.
The National Capital District metropolitan police commander chief superintendent Fred Yakasa says about 60 prisoners had broken out.
He told the paper his officers were providing security at the rugby league ground and could do little.
A source at the correctional services department says the escape happened due to a shortage of warders after some staff failed to turn up for their shifts because of a pay dispute.