Oceania Under 19s 2010- day one action from Samoa.
Glorious conditions greeted the best of Oceania’s Under 19s & Apia Park was in tip-top condition, the fast track was well used with 36 tries scored on the first round of competition.
Game 1 of 3 saw American Samoa take on the Cook Islands. The early encounters were even and both sides were not shy at say hello to each other with a firm tackle. Nippy halfback for American Samoa did his best to get momentum for his team, but after about 15mins the power and size of the Cook Islanders had their opponents back tracking.
The Cooks firmly took a grip on this match and used the big beef up front to lay the platform for good ball out wide. Once the energy was sapped out of American Samoa the Cook’s unleashed style moves for the sidestepping weapons out wide. They also showed an inside centre combination that has body mass to cause trouble to everyone aiming for the trophy. Today they well and truly sent a signal that they are aiming high at this tournament.
American Samoa are first timers at this level, they will though have learnt oodles today and the spirit shown will ensure that they will not be easy beats for too long. This effort was rewarded with a fine forwards try to get them on the scoreboard.
The Cook’s showed composure to win, but even better win well. As the game loosened up they still stuck to technique & basics, they didn’t let the other team in with a chance from sloppy attitude.
Next up was Vanuatu vs PNG. The tempo of this match was up a notch, as both these sides love a fast game. Zing galore was on display as they both ran and ran. The first 20 was a tad disorientated, but full of positive intention. The Apia Park locals warmly welcomed their colourful play, and the cheering continued for the entire game.
It seems that size was the winner today, as PNG’s larger frames took the sting out of Vanuatu’s defence. Tackles started to slide and with this the confidence of the PNG boys grew, their backline was fluid and fast hands were leaving the wingers with plenty of space. 5 pointers started to come at regular intervals and the grins of the PNG boys grew as much as the scoreboard did. Rugby is fun when you are the one with the ball, PNG were having a marvellous afternoon and Vanuatu was chasing an awful lot.
Looking closer at PNG they had good body position in the scrums and mauls, they are not scared of contact and their ball skills in general are fantastic. League like tactics aiming for the miracle unload in the tackle happen a lot, but in a match that had so much space it would be expected. They took a while to wake up today, but when they did they showed enough to at least put the Cook Islands and Samoa on alert for this competition.
Last up today was the home side Samoa taking on Tahiti. Rugby against Samoa is difficult on any day, especially so when you only have 13 on the field as Tahiti did. Their team planning was out and Samoa made them pay dearly with a 109-nil drubbing.
Forwards ran like backs, backs scored tries galore and without raising their body temperature too much they had a field day.
Tahiti need a pat on the back though, they did give a gallant effort and at times one player made seven tackles in a row to attempt to turn the tide. Especially in the second half they showed character and up against it they desparately wanted to score a try, they were close, but didn't get over the white line.
It is hard to see how good Samoa is this year, as realistically today’s match did not extend them. As usual they have a great deal of size, these 19 year olds are bulging and they look hardened. When things are going your way so much it is hard to keep concentration, their dicipline did drop at times, this will be dissapointing, however a cricket score in the papers in the morning will show a different story & their country will be pleased.
If you are a Samoan fan today you will be happy, you saw a lot of tries, but you will also be looking forward to round 2 and a bit stiffer opposition for your team so you can see what they are made of.
There is always something special about a rugby international game, it is more than just a game of footy and it is extra joyous to see young men so proud to be in their countries jersey. As the national anthym was being played, the look in their eyes was worth the entry fee alone. Some teams today got a good old pasting, but they are proud and they will be back for round 2!
Cook Islands 57 - American Samoa 5
PNG 67 - Vanuatu 0
Samoa 109 - Tahiti 0