Papua – New Guniea Defeat Niue 46 – 17 in Oceania Cup Final
Superbly led by Willie Rikis, PNG defeated Niue 46-17 Paliati, Niue to win the Oceania Cup for 2007.
While this was the final of 2007 Oceania Cup, a somewhat belated one, the game was outstanding for the amount of back play and the all round performance of the PNG forwards.
The game was played on a firm surface enabling both teams to move the ball wide and stretching the legs of two outstanding back divisions especially the three quarter lines and the fullbacks. In the first half they seemed so adept at beating each others defence with pace, evasion and good supporting lines that it looked the game may be tit for tat scoring. The final score shows that this was not to be.
The play was assisted by Ben Skeen’s excellent refereeing which both teams appreciated as it allowed them to get on with the game.
Winning the toss Niue elected to play with the wind in the first half, and the onus was on them to be ahead by enough at half-time to withstand the challenge of PNG when it became their turn to play downwind.
This would have been the case, but for the poor kicking Robbie Kahiu, the Nuie #10, who could have added a maximum of eleven points to the teams halftime total. As it was the teams turned round at half-time, with PNG in the lead 22-12.
Sensibly playing for territory and retaining the ball PNG were able to build on this lead in the second half to a achieve a meritorious result.
PNG commenced the scoring with a penalty kick by Lawrence Acanufa followed by a try by George Hoki, converted by Acanufa. PNG 10-0. Niue came back with a free running try to Julio Afoa Talagi, which was converted. PNG 10-7.
Outstanding threequarter play by Niue’s Ricki Helagi and Matthew Faleuka resulted in a try to full back Nigel Faleuka, which was unconverted. Niue 12 – PNG 10.
PNG fullback Chris Hogi added to the score by crossing for a try for PNG. PNG 15 Niue 12.
A further try by Acanufa, which was converted, saw PNG go into the half-time ahead 22-12.
At the start of the second half Niue knew they were in trouble as PNG attacked strongly and from a series of pick and goes hooker Shane Amean scored taking the score, with Acaufa’s conversion to 29-12.
Throughout the second half Niue were faced with the problem of trying to score from deep in your own territory, only to find that when they ran the ball the PNG defence defending as strongly on their opponent’s goal-line as they were on their own.
In the only stage in the second half Niue was able to exert pressure they turned down a kickable penalty in front and didn’t score from the ensuing line-out. However they produced a sound try soon after winning 3 phases quickly and then moving the ball wide for wing Vincent Philigia to be put away on the overlap where he used his pace to beat the PNG fullback and score. It was unconverted. PNG 29 Niue 17.
PNG is play was characterised by the ability to retain possession for long periods of time using forward drives and pick and go. As Niue was drawn into defend, PNG then moved the ball wide to space and was able to penetrate and score.
This was well demonstrated by two quick tries by Acanufa PNG 39 – 17.
From a clearing kick by Nuie to halfway PNG fullback Chris Hogi fielded the ball. The Niue chasers hesitated but he didn’t beating them, running to the 22m, drawing the last defender and putting wing Daniel Kulmat in for the last try which Acanufa converted.
Final score PNG 46 Niue 17.
Both teams now have their sights set on the East and West divisional tournaments in the Cook Islands and New Caledonia respectively later in the year followed by the 2008 final. You never know they could meet again with Niue having a point to prove.