Oceania Sevens: Australia beat Samoa to win Oceania Sevens crown
Australia delighted the local crowd by beating defending champions Samoa 12-7 in the final of the Oceania Sevens Championship at North Sydney. It was double delight for Australia as they also won qualification to the IRB 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens in Moscow.
It was a tense, physical final that went right down to the last seconds. Samoa scored first through a converted Robert Lilomaiava try after an attack that started in its own half. But Australia struck back through the tournament’s top try scorer Pama Fou to make it 7-5 after a break by captain Jenkins. Australia continued to enjoy possession and pressed but Samoa held them out and held their slender lead at the break.
With tensions mounting Samoa’s Talaga Alofipo received a yellow card early in the second half for a high shot. Australia pressed again but could not take advantage. Then, with Samoa back to full strength Aussie Allan Fa’alava’au broke from his own half in centre field to score under the posts and it was 12-7 to the home team. Further pressure then saw Australia lose possession near the Samoa line and the champions headed down field with pace and numbers. It looked as though Falenui Iosi was set to score the winning try but a last ditch tackle around the ankles by Will Miller cut the Samoan down and Australia hung on to win.
Australian captain Ed Jenkins was delighted with the victory, “The first objective was to beat Tonga in the semi-final and qualify for next year’s World Cup Sevens. The win over Samoa to win the Oceania title is the icing on the cake. It was incredibly close but playing Samoa is always hard and it could have gone either way.”
“It was great to be playing at home and it was good preparation for the HSBC Gold Coast Sevens that is coming up in October. Like Samoa we had some debutants today and they have now got some excellent experience of top level Sevens under their belt.”
Samoa coach Faamaoni Lalomilo said after the final, “I am really proud of my boys. We left our senior players at home as we had already qualified for the World Cup Sevens next year. I wanted to see how the young players went against some of the top teams in Sevens such as Australia and they showed they have what it takes. “
“It was a trail of sorts for them. We have the HSBC Sevens World Series coming up plus the World Cup next year and we wanted to build depth in the squad. A lot of young players put their hands up today which is just what we wanted.”
It was all to play for also in the third and fourth play-off match with the last Oceania Rugby World Cup Sevens place up for grabs. Cook Islands and Tonga played out an intense first half with both sides having their chances before the Cooks’ broke the deadline through Justin Marsters and then Sailosi Nagi to give them a 10-0 halftime lead.
However, Tonga replied in the first minute of the second half with a converted try and then added another to Sonatane Takulua to give them the lead 14-10. The momentum was now with Tonga and when Siosiua Ma’afu scored for Tonga it looked all over at 19-10. However, Tiakina Manga scored and converted for the Cooks to make it to make it 19-17 to set up a tense last minute. Tonga deservedly held on and the victory also won invitations to Wellington, Gold Coast and Hong Kong Sevens in the 2012/2013 HSBC World Sevens Series. Consolation for the Cook Islands was an invitation to the Hong Kong Sevens tournament.
Tonga captain Sione Vaiomounga was happy with his team, “We were bad on the first day. We were not prepared to do the work. We took too much for granted but the boys dug deep and we earned a spot at the Rugby World Cup Sevens which is what we wanted. The key was less mistakes and more physicality at the tackle.”
Cook Island coach Ramsey Tomokino said, “We had our opportunities, many of them but just couldn’t convert the pressure, which is disappointing. We also had to play without our captain Koiahu who suffered concussion in the semi-final against Samoa. Top level Sevens is all about taking chances and we didn’t. At least we have the Hong Kong Sevens to look forward to which will be great for us.”
Defending champions Samoa were a class above Cook Island in the first semi-final jumping to a 12-0 lead after just two minutes. At half-time Samoa had a lead of 26-0. Cook Islands had no answer to a ruthless Samoa but scored a consolation try through Sailosi Nagi. However, the Samoan 52-5 victory was marred by a crucial injury to speedster Lio Lolo who would miss the final.
The Tonga versus Australia semi-final was a much tighter and physical affair with Australia edging Tonga two tries to one in the first half to lead 12-7 at the break. Fou then scored his second try shortly after the break to extend the Australian lead to 17-7. Australia seemingly in control then scored a final try to Morahan to secure a 24-7 victory and a place at the 2013 RWC Sevens World Cup.
Quarter finals action
Samoa opened day two at North Sydney with a comfortable 10-try 62-0 quarter-final win over Solomon Islands in the first quarter-final. Samoan squad depth and strike power was reflected in nine different try scorers to show they were determined to defend their Oceania title. Australia also qualified comfortably for the semi-finals with a 55-0 win over Tahiti with Pama Fou scoring four tries.
The two key games in the quarter- finals were Papua New Guinea versus Tonga and Cook Islands versus American Samoa to see who would progress to challenge for tournament honours and RWC Sevens qualification. Tonga, disappointing on Day 1 was too strong for PNG who were denied any possession and opportunities in the first half. Tonga led 17-0 at halftime scoring three tries, two to Sione Vaiomounga, but PNG stormed back to 17-15 with three unanswered second half tries. With time running out PNG threw everything at Tonga but time ran out and Tonga qualified for the semi-finals.
Tonga coach and former Test player Manu Vunipola said, “Everything was on the line in that game. We had to win it to keep our world cup qualification dream alive. We were poor on day one and talked about it overnight. Today we were hungry and far more focused and aggressive.”
The Cook Islands opened the scoring against American Samoa in a highly anticipated quarter-final that became a very tight affair in the first half. The Cook Islanders superbly led by captain Koiatu Koiatu, scored the only try of the first and led 5-0. After the break the Cooks Islands greater experience and strong defense proved too much for American Samoa and the Cooks went on to score a further two converted tries for a 19-0 win.
Australia progress to 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens
Tonga progress to 2013 Rugby World Cup Sevens
Tonga qualifies for Wellington, Gold Coast and Hong Kong (2013 HSBC Sevens World Series)
Cook Island qualifies for Hong Kong (2013 HSBC Sevens World Series)
Day Two Results
Samoa 62 Solomon Islands 0
Papua New Guinea 15 Tonga 17
Cook Islands 19 American Samoa 0
Tahiti 0 Australia 55
Samoa 52 Cook Islands 5
Tonga 7 Australia 24
3rd Place play-off
Cook Islands 17 Tonga 19
Samoa 7 Australia 12
Solomon Islands 7 American Samoa 24
Papua New Guinea 47 Tahiti 0
(7 versus 8) Solomon Islands 52 Tahiti 0
(5 versus 6) Papua New Guinea 24 American Samoa 21