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