Oceania Sevens: Samoa Kick Off in Style
The Samoa Sevens team gave their home crowd plenty to cheer about in the opening round of the 2011 Oceania Sevens Championship at Apia Park.
Uale Mai led his team to a 47-0 victory over Niue in hot sunny conditions, although the highlight was the thrilling 19-19 draw in the opening match between Tonga and Papua New Guinea.
Tonga, who won the 3rd place playoff against the same opponent a year ago, led at halftime with tries to Paula Kata and Atelea Okati against one to PNG’s Henry Liliket.
Tonga defended strongly in the second spell until Albert Levi unleashed his extraordinary pace, streaking 80m to score under the posts and give PNG a 14-12 lead, before the red machine responded and Kata’s second looked to be the match winner. However, PNG ran the length of the field and Jason Missian scored in the corner after the hooter had sounded.
Missian’s kick was unsuccessful, meaning the results of later matches will be all important in securing a favourable draw tomorrow.
Samoan captain Mai was back to his best as the hosts were untroubled by Niue. Mai scored two tries and set up others to Falemiga Selesele and Lolo Lui to give his side a lead 26-0 at halftime.
Niue put up more resistance in the second half but the floodgates opened with three more scores to Selesele (2) and Robert Lilomaiava.
Mai said it was a good start to the day.
“The conditions were hot but good for us although the teams from the other countries might find it different for them!,” he said. “We are looking forward to the next game against Australia.”
American Samoa made their debut in the Championships with a comfortable 31-7 win over New Caledonia.
The two sides met in a close Plate final in last month’s XIV Pacific Games in Noumea – American Samoa winning 19-17 – but the result was never in doubt this time around.
Ross Poyer, Nard Umayan, Kamilo Soi and McClusky Fa’agata scored in an entertaining first half to lead 26-0.
The French territory did pull one back through Lolesio Mauvaka but a yellow card to Elyas Kopoui created a gap for American Samoa captain David Laban to score, and Soi’s second saw them complete a maiden victory.
The Cook Islands got their campaign underway with a scratchy 19-7 win over the Solomon Islands.
A spirited Solomons held out for most of the first half before the experienced Koiatu Koiatu opened the scoring under the posts. Cameron Suamoana went close for the team in yellow but Eddie Nicholas swooped on the mistake to score at the other end of Apia Park and Ashley Drake gave the Cooks a 19-0 halftime lead.
The Solomons’ had the better of the second half and eventually captain Carlwyn Tengemoana dotted down under the posts.
Tengemoana’s team showed enough to indicate they might do better than their 7th place in the recent Pacific Games.
Top seeds Fiji and defending champions Australia play their first matches at 11:37 and 12:43 respectively (local time).
Results from Day One:
Tonga 19 Papua New Guinea 19
American Samoa 31 New Caledonia 7
Samoa 47 Niue 0
Cook Islands 19 Solomon Islands 7
Fiji v Tonga
Papua New Guinea v American Samoa
Cook Islands v Niue
Samoa v Australia