Oceania Sevens: Comfortable Wines for Big Names in Apia
Tonga, Fiji and Australia had big wins in the latest round of the 2011 Oceania Sevens Championship in Apia.
Tonga had an easy victory over New Caledonia scoring seven tries to win 45-5.
Debutant Keori Okati scored twice with his straight running, vice-captain Jack Ram also bagged a brace and Seilame Tukuafu, Tevita Halaifonua and Stewart Manako were the others to cross the line.
Jacko Dihace was New Caledonia’s lone scorer.
The points differential from this match should work in Tonga’s favour when the quarter-finalists are found, provided they beat American Samoa in the next round.
Tonga currently have a +19 differential compared with Papua New Guinea’s -44 after the latter’s 0-48 thrashing at the hands of Fiji.
The teams last met at the XIV Pacific Games, when Fiji won 24-19 in a thriller in extra-time, and coach Joe Savou said he was surprised with the lack of resistance.
“We were a little scared after what they did to us in the Pacific Games but we changed our game plan and it worked very well,” said Savou. “In particular our defence which denied space to the fast guys in the PNG team”.
Fiji completely dominated territory and possession in the first half and lead 17-0 at the break.
Former 400m champion Aporosa Tabulawaki scored the opener in the corner and Watisoni Votu, who was prominent throughout, set up firstly Livai Ikanikoda and then Setefano Cakau for tries.
Tabulawaki’s second ensured Fiji could not be beaten and substitutes Joji Ragamate, Semi Radradra and Timoci Davu completed the rout as the top seeds found some form.
“We are quite happy with the boys’ performance and we are looking forward to the next two games,” added Savou.
Niue continued their good form to beat the Solomon Islands 27-7.
Niue led 10-7 at halftime with tries to Sanu Sakalia and Vincent Pihingia. Leslie Puia beat his opposite number to close the gap for the Solomons but Tony Pulu stretched the lead to 10 points again when he barged over from close range.
Pulu popped up on the wing soon afterwards for his second and Sakalia grabbed a double as the Solomons tired.
Niue’s second pool victory sees them with a chance to finish runners-up should they beat Australia.
The defending champions didn’t have it all their own way against the Cook Islands but were comfortable winners in the end.
Australian coach Michael O’Connor rated the result a “pass”.
“The scoreboard showed 31-12 but the game was a lot closer than that,” said O’Connor. “We were comprehensively outplayed against Samoa but we improved for that match. My hope is that we keep on improving to play our best football tomorrow afternoon.”
Danny Routledge got Australia on the board and then threw the final pass to Bill Meakes who took the score to 12-0 before Ashley Drake capitalised from a dropped ball to make the score 7-12 at halftime.
Drake stunned the green-and-golds from the restart by scoring in the corner and levelling it at 12-12 but a patient Australia worked a try in the corner to the impressive 19-year old Con Foley.
BJ Hartmann’s exquisite conversion gave the Aussies enough of a buffer before Lindsay Crook, the other teenager in the squad, and Pama Fou ran clear to score and push the final margin out to 31-12.
“They’re all new players this year and this is their first tournament for Australia,” said O’Connor of his young squad. “They’re going well, fighting with the heat and getting themselves ready for the step up to the HSBC Sevens World Series.”
Results from Day One:
Tonga 19 Papua New Guinea 19
American Samoa 31 New Caledonia 7
Fiji 21 Tonga 0
Papua New Guinea 21 American Samoa 17
Tonga 45 New Caledonia 5
Fiji 48 Papua New Guinea 0
Samoa 47 Niue 0
Cook Islands 19 Solomon Islands 7
Niue 19 Cook Islands 12
Samoa 35 Australia 12
Niue 27 Solomon Islands 7
Australia 31 Cook Islands 12
American Samoa v Tonga
New Caledonia v Fiji
Solomon Islands v Australia
Cook Islands v Samoa