Oceania Sevens - Samoa defend title in Tahiti
Tahiti - Samoa's Sevens renaissance has continued with an impressive victory at the Oceania Sevens Championships held in Tahiti over the weekend.
In the wake of their Gold Medal at the Pacific Mini Games in Rarotonga last month, Samoa has defended their Oceania Sevens crown with a 31-14 victory over Tonga in the Final.
The win augers well for the start of the 2009/10 IRB Sevens World Series which begins in Dubai on 4-5 December before moving onto George the following week.
Samoan Coach Stephen Betham was delighted with the win. "Although we have already qualified for the Commonwealth Games and the IRB Sevens World Series, that was a good win and a great preparation for the start of the IRB World Series" he said. "The standard was higher than that of the Mini-Games and the competition was tough. Many teams have improved - Papua New Guinea in particular and they are going to be a team to watch when they compete in the IRB Sevens World Series events next year" Betham added.
Tonga's team manager, Richard Mafi, was similarly delighted to qualify for the Commonwealth Games. "It was our goal to qualify for the Wellington and Adelaide legs of the IRB Sevens World Series but we did not expect to come second" he said. "We brought a relatively inexperienced squad, all of whom were local players. There were six players who earned their debut cap for Tonga at this event and we're delighted with what they achieved for their country" he added.
However the real surprise packet for the tournament was Papua New Guinea. Under the stewardship of Fijian Sevens maestro Waisale Serevi, who was recently appointed the coach of the National Sevens Program, Papua New Guinea stunned their more fancied rivals Niue with a 24-12 victory to claim 3rd place and qualification for the Adelaide and Wellington legs of the IRB Sevens World Series. It caps off an impressive year for PNG Rugby. In September their U19 team qualified for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy next year in Russia. In June the National Fifteens team won the Oceania Cup and progressed to the final round of qualification for Rugby World Cup 2011, eventually losing to Samoa in the home-and-away series.
The final placings in the 2009 Oceania Sevens Championships are:
3. Papua New Guinea
5. Cook Islands
All eyes now turn to Dubai, UAE, where four Oceania teams will compete in the opening leg of the IRB Sevens World Series - Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa. After a dissappointing last series, Samoa will be keen to make amends and based on their form going into the opening leg of the series, they appear well on track to rediscover the form of old.