Oceania Cup: PNG and Niue both have wins in Round 2
After a sizzling opening round, the four challenging nations were rearing to rip into the second day of matches; the only thing that beat them to Lloyd Robson Oval on this occasion was the scorching Port Moresby sun, which again would play a huge part in the day’s proceedings. After an upset loss at the hands of the Solomon Islanders, the Niuean’s will certainly be jumping out of their skins to make amends, while the Vanuatuan’s will have to make a dramatic improvement to avoid another drubbing at the hands of a vengeful Niuean squad.
Despite their huge win over the Niuean’s, the Solomon Islanders will need to take their game up another notch if they are to topple the Papua New Guinea team, as the Pukpuks certainly look a class above all others, and are clearly cup favourites following their powerful display against the Tuskers on Tuesday.
Whilst the Warriors were able to contain the heavy Niuean’s, they will have their work cut out to contain a dynamic Pukpuk forward pack oozing with power. However, in the best traditions of Pacific Rugby, anything is possible in the scorching pacific heat!
NIUE 32 v 15 VANUATU
Proceedings started sourly for Niue at the start, with Danny Atamu unable to find the 10-metre line at the kick off followed by a string of dropped passes short of the line. Vanuatu took their chances early and in the sixth minute crossed over for a miraculous 60 metre try to winger Patrick August. The Niueans stood shell shocked under the sticks as they awaited the conversion, which fortunately for the Niueans was unsuccessful. Unlike their first encounter in the opening round, the Niueans this time round struck back almost immediately with a try to front rower Moree Tukuniu, who barged his way over the line after a typical forward surge by the burley Niuean forward pack. With the try unconverted by fullback Ahosivi, scores were levelled at the 15th minute mark. Niue however edged ahead with a penalty conversion to Jaxon Samoa only moments later following a yellow card offense to Tuskers prop Mangawai for an infringement at the ruck.
The Niueans seemed to gain some momentum from the tiebreaker, and were able to finally keep the ball in hand for their forwards to put the Vanuatuans on the back foot. Another try on the back of a surging maul to Niue No.8 Afargo Laupoli further edged the Niueans ahead with 10 minutes remaining in the first half. Ill discipline by the Vanuatuans at the breakdown was their undoing, hence gifting the Niueans a string of penalty conversions, which were gratefully taken at every chance.
Niue looked comfortable at the break as both teams ran into the sheds with Niue taking the lead 19 points to the Tuskers 5.
An early penalty to the Tuskers in the second spell after a probing raid in the Niuean 22 narrowed the lead somewhat only momentarily, as Niuean speedster Manoa Lito touched down out wide to send the Niueans further ahead. Vanuatu however refused to give up and continued to scramble for what possession they could. Ball handling coupled with another yellow card to replacement Matoutora certainly didn’t help their cause, as the Niueans continued to hit it up the middle. A bonus point try to give Niue No.8 Laopoli his double for the game at the 60 minute mark, with a successful ensuing penalty conversion moments later to Jaxon Samoa all but sealed the victory for Niue to give them a shot at the title in the last round.
A last minute try to Toara gave the Tuskers some consolation, although they would be disappointed at not being able to convert more points if not for poor handling and ill discipline. Niue 32, Vanuatu 13.
PAPUA NEW GUINEA 33 v 15 SOLOMON ISLANDS
A dropped ball deep in Papuan territory by the Warriors on attack was quickly snapped up by the herculean No 8 George Oki who then brilliantly offloaded the pill to his pacey backs for Christopher Kakau to race 40 metres down the touchline to score the opening points of second match in the opening minutes of the final match of the day. Full back Kautu was unable to convert for the Pukpuks to take the early lead 5 points to nil in only two minutes.
Warriors no 12 Vivian Kelesi surprised the Moresby crowd early in with some barnstorming surges on the inside cut to trouble the Pukpuk midfield pair, who seemed to bounce off the Solomon Islander at every occasion. Not to be undone, Pukpuk centre Kautu showed some of his own steel to cut the Solomon’s up close their line for the Pukpuks in the 12th minute but was mown down inches from the line by the covering Warrior defence. A penalty minutes later from a Warriors surge in Pukpuk territory was converted by Felix Galo to narrow the early Pukpuks lead.
With so much intensity in the opening quarters, tempers eventually flared between the two neighbouring countries, with both outside centres for the Warriors and Pukpuks eventually sent to the sin bin to cool off. The Pukpuks further pulled ahead moments later through a successful penalty conversion by captain Jonah Kautu close to the sticks.
The Pukpuks dominated possession through most periods of the first spell and were unable to convert their dominance into points due to the tenacity of the Warrior’s defence, which seemed to disrupt the more structured Pukpuks. Lapse of concentration by the Pukpuks back three however allowed the Warriors backs to pounce on loose ball. After a few ensuing phases the Warriors leaped for joy, as skipper Corey Chapman drove over for a try from an attacking scrum meters out from the try line. Halfback Felix Galo failed to level to score from a relatively easy angle. Jonah Kautu also missed a penalty shot just before the half time whistle to give the Warriors from the Solomon Islands a surprisingly narrow lead at the break.
The opening minutes of the second spell saw an uncharacteristic show of forward play between the two teams with both content to maul the ball up field. The Warriors decision to maul the ball in the their own half cost them dearly, as the Pukpuks managed to turn the pill over for Kakah to score his second try in the corner. Moment’s later skipper Kautu snapped a loose ball from the kick off to put Andrew Samson in the gap 50 metres out. Samson then dazzled the Moresby crowd with some classy footwork and pure pace to leave several Solomon islanders in his wake to score a brilliant solo try. Left wing Kakah joined in the scoring spree by scoring his treble try only minutes later, as the Pukpuks leaped further ahead.
Another try to Samson further pulled the Pukpuks beyond reach with another impressive try out wide just before the last quarter; however the Pukpuks coaching staff would be concerned with their kicking arsenal with nearly all conversions going astray. Two more tries to the Pukpuks put the match beyond the spirited Solomon Islanders who continued to fight on, and were rewarded a consolation try on the stroke of full time to lock Ferdson Soaki. Felix Galo failed to convert to give the Pukpuks a hard fought 33 points to 15 win over a gutsy Solomon Islands team.
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