After 20 action-packed matches at the Trusts Arena in Waitakere, Auckland, the finalists for both the men and women’s Oceania Sevens tournaments were all but decided. The men’s quarter final draw has been decided based on Day 1 pool results while in the women’s tournament one round remains to determine who will play in the semi-finals of that event on Day 2.
In the men’s tournament Australia and an improved Samoa, two of the senior teams in the event, are on target to meet in the final and fight it out for the one automatic Olympic qualifying place. Both were unbeaten on Day 1 and clearly looked the best two sides in the tournament. Tonga and Papua New Guinea looked the next best teams and on form should be semi-finalists.
Australia beat Nauru 62-0, Cook Islands 48-7 and Tonga 49-0 conceding just one try in the process. However Samoa was equally impressive in beating Solomon Islands 45-0, American Samoa 50-0 and Papua New Guinea 41-7.
Samoa’s coach Damian Magraff declared after the Day 1 action, “We started slowly and simply but really built into the day in terms of our performance which pleased me and we finished really strong. Tomorrow is key obviously. Australia showed their mettle at the end of the day with an impressive win over Tonga who I thought would push them closer. Australia are the team to beat and I hope we bring our ‘A’ game tomorrow as we will need it to compete against them.”
One of the up and coming teams in Oceania and crowd favourites Nauru were playing in their first ever international tournament and while they did not win a game enjoyed the experience.
Coach Dargan Kaierua declared, “It was tough today but we knew it would be. We are minnows at this level and it is a steep learning curve and we were in the deep end today so to speak. It is the only way to learn and we have to play at this level to improve.”
“We played against professionals today in the Australian team and that was a great learning experience for the team. We will take that experience back with us and try to understand how we can improve for the future.”
Men’s Quarterfinal draw
Fijiana look a class above
In the women’s tournament the unbeaten favourites Fijiana all but booked their semi-final spot, and look odds-on to feature in the final, after three impressive performances. Fijiana breezed through its first two matches on day 1 against Cook Islands and Tonga.
The third match against the day’s other unbeaten team Samoa looked a much harder affair and on paper Samoa were expected to be much tougher opposition. However Fijiana showed its class with great defence and silky distribution that created space and numerous try-scoring opportunities. The 41-0 victory was ultimately comprehensive and it would be a big surprise if Fijiana did not secure the Olympic qualifying spot on day 2.
Assuming Fijiana reach the final the other spot looks to be a battle between Samoa and surprise package Cook Islands who despite losing heavily to Fijiana in its second match beat Papua New Guinea and Tonga on Day 1. Indeed one of the stand out players of the day was playmaker Wairakau Greig who drove the Cook Islands forward and was the fulcrum of all the teams play.
The four women’s semi-final spots will be decided after the final round of matches on the morning of Day 2 that will see Samoa play Cook Islands and Fiji play Papua New Guinea.
Prize on offer
The winner of both the men’s and women’s tournaments will book places at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August next year when sevens debuts on sport's greatest stage. The teams that finish second and third in both tournaments will have a second chance to qualify for Rio de Janeiro as they will qualify for the World Rugby final qualifying tournament that is expected to be played in June 2016.
Full Day 2 match schedule click here
Day 1 - Women’s Results
Samoa 35 Tonga 0
Papua New Guinea 7 Cook Islands 29
Papua New Guinea 20 Tonga 5
Fiji 48 Cook Islands 0
Samoa 31 Papua New Guinea 7
Fiji 62 Tonga 0
Cook Islands 27 Tonga 5
Fiji 41 Samoa 0
Samoa v Cook Islands – Day 2
Fiji v Papua New Guinea – Day 2
Day 1 - Men’s Results
Tonga 29 Cook Islands 0
Australia 62 Nauru 0
Tonga 45 Nauru 0
Australia 48 Cook Islands 7
Cook Islands 45 Nauru 0
Australia 49 Tonga 0
Papua New Guinea 45 American Samoa 0
Samoa 48 Solomon Islands 0
Papua New Guinea 52 Solomon Islands 0
Samoa 50 American Samoa 0
American Samoa 7 Solomon Islands 17
Samoa 41 Papua New Guinea 7