Samoa and PNG impress at Oceania Sevens

(IRB.COM) Tuesday 17 November 2009

Just three weeks before the start of the new IRB Sevens World Series, Samoa have won a confidence-boosting victory at the Oceania Sevens Championship in Tahiti.

Last month the Samoans beat great rivals Fiji to gold at the Pacific Mini Games in Rarotonga, and this time they defended their Oceania Sevens crown with a 31-14 victory over Tonga in the Final.

With several of their leading players on tour in Europe with the senior national side, notably captain Ofisa Treviranus and play-makers Uale Mai and Lolo Lui, the tournament was also an opportunity to blood some fresh talent.

“That was a good win and a great preparation for the start of the IRB World Series,” said new Samoa head coach Stephen Betham.“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,” he added.

In addition to the region’s ‘core’ World Series sides who play in every event – New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Samoa – the competition also confirmed that Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Niue will compete at the NZI Sevens in Wellington, the third event on the World Series.

“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,” said Tonga’s team manager Richard Mafi.

“We brought a relatively inexperienced squad, all of whom were local players. There were six players who earned their debut caps for Tonga at this event and we’re delighted with what they achieved for their country.”

However, the tournament’s surprise package was certainly Papua New Guinea, now under the stewardship of Fijian Sevens great Waisale Serevi.

Serevi was recently appointed coach of the country’s National Sevens Programme and PNG stunned their more fancied rivals Niue with a 24-12 victory to claim third place.

It caps off an impressive year for PNG Rugby – in September their Under 19 team qualified for the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy next year in Russia, while in June the national 15-a-side 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.

2009 Oceania Sevens – Final standings
1. Samoa
2. Tonga
3. Papua New Guinea
4. Niue
5. Cook Islands
6. Vanuatu
7. Tahiti

5 thoughts on “Samoa and PNG impress at Oceania Sevens

  1. Good article about Will Genia from The Scotsman. And yes I know it’s not 7’s, but the Real Deal!

    New sensation Will Genia has pace in excess to hurt Scotland

    Published Date: 19 November 2009
    By David Ferguson

    WHEN Chris Cusiter faced Australia for the first time in 2004 he was one of the most exciting young scrum-halves emerging in the world game.

    Five years on he is reasserting his claims to being a world-class talent, but will have to do so this weekend against the latest sensation in the global scrum-half factory.

    Will Genia was hailed as the ‘new George Gregan’ when he starred in Australia’s victory over England at the start of this Grand Slam tour campaign. He might only be 5ft 8in and 13 stones, but he was just as impressive in Dublin on Sunday even though the ‘Slam’ was halted in a dramatic finale that made for a 20-20 draw. He is not unlike Cusiter, possessing a strong upper body, an eye for sniping runs around the fringes and under bigger defenders and slick hands.

    In his first season on the Test stage, he has quickly become known for injecting great pace to the game, and if the speed at which he speaks is a guide to his play, the Scottish defence is in for an interminable battle simply watching him this weekend.

    Sanchez William Genia, to give him his full name, was born in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, in 1988, the son of a government minister, Kilroy, and was one of many young players from around Australia and New Zealand sent by their families to the boarding school system on the mainland at the age of 12. Genia admits he had no knowledge of rugby then, which only makes his rise even more remarkable.

    Click here to play our Scotland v Australia predictor

    “It was all rugby league in Port Moresby where I grew up,” he said. “I didn’t play sport at primary school, just backyard cricket really. But when you go to a private school everyone expects you to be able to play, and I felt that weight of expectation on me. I didn’t know the rules, didn’t know what a ruck or maul was, nothing. I had quite a good skill set in catching and passing, and hand-eye co-ordination, and tackling as a 12-year-old was just grabbing someone and chucking them to the ground really. I started off as a winger and moved into inside centre and then into half-back.”

    His older brother, Frankie, who has been capped by Papua New Guinea, provided a lead and younger brother, Nigel, is now following him through the ranks in Queensland. Genia, however, has hardly had time to draw breath in a whirlwind period that started with the Brisbane schoolboy being plucked from Queensland’s under-19 squad by Eddie Jones, the Reds’ former Wallaby coach, and taken on tour to Japan three years ago.

    “That was probably more of a shock to me than anyone,” he said. “I had just played Queensland and Aussie under-19s, and then he took me to play for a Queensland team against the Japanese national side. It was just a dream to be on the plane with the boys.”

    Genia started to turn heads in the 2007 Super 14, making his debut before having played a senior club match and going on to play in 11 of the Reds’ 13 games. He was Australia under-20s scrum-half at the IRB World Junior Championships in Wales in 2008, which was where he first earned a man of the match award against England, and repeated the feat two weeks ago, but this time his try helped secure victory over “our arch enemy”.

    He accepts the Gregan comparison as a great compliment, but would never dare agree with it, and cuts dead a question that suggests he is now Australia’s ‘incumbent’ scrum-half. Having made his Test debut against New Zealand and his first start in victory over South Africa, it comes as little surprise that Genia is now revelling in every new weekly challenge north of the equator.

    “It has been great, exciting, and very different,” he enthused. “In the northern hemisphere they can play really tight and really expansive as well, but tend to focus more on field position and playing that tight sort of game in wearing teams down as opposed to, say, a southern hemisphere team, who like to run the ball from everywhere.

    “Scotland seem to be working hard to take the bloke out and concentrating on the bloke rather than the ball, but it’s all a good experience for me – a good learning curve. I’m not nervous, more excited, just looking forward now to playing at Murrayfield.”

    The 21-year-old is one of a dozen players making their first trip to Scotland and, encouraged by Deans to get out of the team hotel, he has been getting to know the Scottish capital which he believes will help the team on Saturday.

    “I like the fact that it’s quite different here – the real cold environment, the buildings and everything,” he added.

    “I went and saw Buckingham Palace in London and went out in Dublin a bit, just going for random walks really and taking photos – I’ve been a bit of a tourist – and Edinburgh Castle is very impressive. But it’s great for the team, just to go for a walk or get some lunch, a coffee; you bond really well. It builds a lot of trust and I think if you feel comfortable with your mates off the field, you feel even more so that they’ve got your back on the field.”

    The team bonding has stretched as far as his Queensland half-back partner Quade Cooper giving him a haircut this week, which he believes makes him look ‘Fijian’. Scotland have already seen off the challenge of the islanders last weekend and will be hoping the new young Wallaby does not enjoy his first taste of the national rugby stadium, but one gets the feeling that if Cusiter and Co manage to dampen this kid’s enthusiasm, they will be halfway to causing a major shock against Australia.

  2. I had the opportunity to watch the boys in action at the Gold Coast sevens a few weeks back. The difference between that side and the one that I watched in Wellington a few years back does justice to the significant investment that PNG Rugby has made by bringing Serevi onboard. Well done to the boys. I will be in Wellington in February to watch the boys go around.

    Surely other codes will learn a lesson from PNG Rugby. My criticism of PNG sports has always centred on my own definition of insanity – we do the same thing and expect a different result. If we keep walking in a certain direction we will keep arriving at the same destination!!

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