Oceania qualifiers- New Caledonia strike first
New Caledonia have stamped a mark on the Oceania title with a gritty 32-20 win over Vanuatu in Noumea today. Played in muggy overcast conditions the home side used their sheer size and big hearts to pull out with a solid win. The match saw the lead change multiple times and the crowd were treated to positive attacking play.
Vanuatu are a lean mean team and played way above their weight today, the New Caledonian's must be on average 12 kilo heavier per man but this didn't stop the visitors chucking every ounce at the bigger men. At times they even dominated the scrum and were never shy to the combat area in the rucks and mauls, this was backed up brilliantly with their willingness to toss the ball wide and run like the wind.
New Caledonia started with a roar and camped in Vanuatu land for the first 15 mins, this came up with nothing and as soon as the men in green got the ball they sprinted away for a try against the run of play. This set the tone and both teams attacked with vigor and all 30 men did their best to entertain. Every try was in return matched by the other team and the arm wrestle continued right up until the last 10 mins when the power of the local boys was just too much.
Standout players for the winners were powerhouse number 10 Falatea Taofifenua and number 8 Irene Filisika. These 2 were into everything and were very difficult to bring to ground, this is turn kept the ball alive and usually ended in try time. Taofifenua was rewarded with one scintillating try of his own that sealed the deal for the home side.
In the end the size of New Caledonia literally wore the Vanuatu defence down, they tackled all day, but in the end the mountain was too big. The home side will be happy, they will be even happier that as the match went on the better they got, so looks like they will be dangerous in this competition.