Tournament hosts Australia bounced back from an earlier pool loss to Samoa to beat the Pacific Islanders 32-7 in the final of the Oceania Rugby U18 Boys' Championship at St Ignatius College in Sydney.
As regional champions, Australia's boys will now compete at the Buenos Aires 2018 Youth Olympic Games sevens competition in October if given the go-ahead by their National Olympic Committee (NOC). As per an International Olympic Committee ruling, only one male and one female team can attend the Youth Olympic Games from each nation.
It was not all plain-sailing for Australia, the setback to Samoa having been preceded by a scrappy 29-25 win over the Cook Islands. But they rallied well, scoring 104 points with only five conceded in reply in their final three pool games against the Solomon Islands, Fiji and Tonga.
As well as beating Australia, unbeaten Samoa enjoyed emphatic victories over the Solomon Islands and the Cook Islands and also got the better of Fiji and Tonga in one-score games.
Australia started the final in determined fashion and scored early through Jordan Williams. Less than a minute later Australian captain Jack Walsh crossed for the first of his three tries to make the score 10-0 before Samoa quickly responded with a converted try for Tuna Tuitama. Walsh crossed again, however, to take Australia's lead into double figures at the break.
In a one-sided second half, Walsh completed his hat-trick and Williams scored a second with Tolu Koula also getting on the scoresheet.
“Obviously we came off a loss against Samoa at the start but from there on we built further. We really bonded well throughout the week and the team came through for each other. It was good to get a win in the last game,” said Walsh.
Fiji defeated Tonga 21-14 in the third place play-off and the Cook Islands finished the weekend strongly with a 41-5 win over the Solomon Islands in the fifth place play-off.
"The rugby standard was unreal, you had no easy games. All the teams were really good and had the ability to win,” Walsh added.
Kiwis girls take advantage of Aussie ill-discipline
Pending NOC approval, New Zealand qualified for the girls' competition at the Youth Olympic Games thanks to a 21-7 win against Australia, who won the inaugural rugby sevens gold medal at the Nanjing 2014 Games, in the final.
There was little separating the trans-Tasmin rivals who both went into the showpiece match with three wins apiece. New Zealand scored the first points with a converted try scored by Iritana Hohaia, but Australia responded immediately with a try of their own through Hagiga Mosby.
In the final minute of the first half, Australia’s Jakiya Whitfeld was shown a yellow card and New Zealand capitalised to score a try through Montessa Tairakena.
In the second half, the score remained at 14-7 to New Zealand with neither side able to convert possession into points until Tairakena again took advantage of another Australian sin-binning to score her second try, Risaleaana Pouri-Lane converting for a final scoreline of 21-7 to New Zealand.
“We knew coming into this day it was going to be really hard and we are so happy to come away with a win and represent our country. Our goal was to win this tournament and we want to say a huge thank you to all our supporters and our families,” said New Zealand captain Jazmin Felix-Hotham.
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Photo credit: Karen Watson
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