Samoa are crowned 2010 Oceania U19 Champions
The 2010 Oceania U19 Championship has concluded with Samoa running out Champions today at Apia Park, Samoa, as they disposed of the Cook Islands in scintillating fashion. However, even an unsavoury incident in the spiteful encounter between American Samoa and Papua New Guinea couldn’t dampen the passion the other teams took into their matches. All teams came to work today to go to war against their Island cousins. For a few, it will be their last time playing at this level as they move into the senior ranks of their respective home Unions, so they were determined to leave their mark.
First up we had Tahiti v Vanuatu. Tahiti has had their fair share of challenges to overcome during the Tournament, however in traditional island style they gave their all, and got stuck in from the get go.
A great try scored by Vanuatu’s James Kalsakau opened the scoring for the day of the Finals. Vanuatu's opening play was expansive with numerous raids into the Tahiti quarter, however their momentum was stopped by a determined opponent. Tahiti rallied, returning serve as their outside centre sliced through some flimsy defence to score next to the post. The battle seesawed and teams went to the break with Tahiti ahead 12 – 5. Vanuatu opened their second half account straight after half time with sustained pressure up the middle and then spun it wide to score in the corner. However the hot conditions and Tahiti’s annoying loose forwards and speedy backs were too much for Vanuatu, and Tahiti scored late in the half to record their first win of the Tournament. Tahiti 17 - Vanuatu 10.
American Samoa and Papua New Guinea were next off the rank, and a spirited but spiteful encounter ensued. Papua New Guinea were playing for pride after being bundled out of IRB Junior World Trophy qualification contention by the Cook Islands, and American Samoa, the newcomers, were looking to send a message to the Region that they would be a force to be reckoned with in future competitions. However, passion spilled into dirty play and the game was marred by an unsavoury incident in the 17th minute which caused the referee to consider calling off the match. Fortunately, the game continued, however tension amongst the teams remained and the match played out minus the spirit that had been generated over the course of the Tournament. Papua New Guinea won the match 34 - 5.
Samoa v Cook Islands was the match that everyone was waiting for, and would decide the 2010 Oceania U19s Champions. Both teams came out pumped to take the prize, however it was Samoa that were never headed, and whilst the Cooks charges were gallant, they were no match for the Samoa juggernaut. Samoa quickly skipped to a 12 point lead, however the Cooks opened their scoring though a penalty goal, which slowed the game momentarily and gave its players a well needed chance to grab some of the hot Island air. Samoa continued to roll towards half time and went the break 29 points up.
Followingn a much needed respite from the hot conditions and some air back in their lungs, the game continued where it left off. The Cooks grabbed a much needed try and had another couple of great chances to score, but the ball missed going to hand or their momentum was extinguished by a well drilled and structured defence. The Cooks had one last chance out wide with numbers, however a floating pass to their right wing went to ground and was seized upon by his Samoan counterpart who storm down field to score under the post. This last try seemed to sum up the contest. The Cook Islands tried everything, but just couldn't seem to get past their Samoan cousins.
Samoa were worthy 2010 Oceania U19 Champions, and enjoyed the spoils of their victory. The Cook Islands and the other Participating teams take away a lot from this Tournament, and look forward to being bigger and better at the next Oceania U19s Championship in 2012.