Samoa and Fiji both enjoyed winning starts in an entertaining first day at Churchill Park in Lautoka which saw 162 points and 26 tries scored across the two matches.
Fans were treated to a 17-try thriller in the first game as Samoa and Papua New Guinea ran the ball at every opportunity in the hot and humid conditions, while in the second game Tonga's first test in 12 years ended in a heavy defeat to Fiji.
The Oceania Rugby Women's Championship continues in Lautoka on Tuesday. Samoa will take on Tonga, while Fiji play PNG.
Papua New Guinea 45-56 Samoa
Second-row Mary Lee Sa'u, flanker and captain Sui Pauaraisa and number eight Nina Foaese each scored a brace of tries apiece as Samoa used their forward power to combat a lively Papua New Guinea side that came out firing from the first whistle.
PNG raced into a 26-12 lead in as many minutes thanks to a hat-trick from winger Mala Mark but Samoa hit back with three tries to snatch a 29-26 lead at the break.
Samoa turned the screw in a dominant third quarter, punishing PNG for a third yellow card, with back-row trio Faoese, Sa'u and Pauaraisa dotting down for the second time in the match to open up a 20-point advantage.
PNG winger Jill Yallon pulled one back with the first of her two tries, before Jo Falesita and replacement Alafou Fatu replied to put Samoa out of sight.
Yallon scored her second, while PNG were down to 14 players for the fourth time in the match, and Fatima Rama added another late consolation deep into injury time.
“I’m so proud of the girls as it’s our first game together as a team and we’re all from different places. We didn’t know our opposition except that they were quick, so we opted to use our strength which was our forwards," said Manusina captain Sui Pauaraisa.
“We’ve been waiting for this tournament for so long because Manusina hasn’t been together since 2014 so it’s a good start for us.”
Despite not coming away with the win and battling a team hit with injuries, Palais captain Debbie Kaore was pleased with the team’s performance. “It feels so good to play here. Most of our players also just arrived this morning and although most of us felt jetlagged, we came for a reason and it was to give our best. I’m really proud of the girls as they went out hard. We knew we had the win but it just slipped out of our hands.”
Fiji 53-8 Tonga
A convincing display from the defending champions Fiji saw them post a big win in round one over a young outfit from Tonga.
Number eight Lavenia Tinai, fly-half Tokasa Seniyasi, centre Mereani Moceituba and full-back Timaima Ravisa scored first-half tries as Fiji opened up a 22-3 lead at the break. Tonga, whose points came from an Ema Potataufa penalty, ended the half down to 13 players after Judith Pita and Melanie Fifita were sin-binned.
Tinai crossed for her second before Tonga were back up to their full complement of players, and then captain Rusila Nagasau dotted down twice in the space of four minutes as Fiji eased further in front.
Credit to Tonga, they never gave in and some determined defence kept the scoreline at 41-3 until Ravisa grabbed her second and sevens star Ana Roqica scored on debut.
Tonga finished their first test since 2006 on a positive note after Lita Fuikefu crossed with a minute remaining.
“I am really proud of the girls and how they’ve come through together. There were some new girls and though it’s a new gel, we are all Fijians and we can easily adapt and play together," said Nagasau.
Meanwhile, Tonga captain Va’inga Moimoi spoke of her pride at the way her callow side adapted to the demands of test rugby. “I’m just proud of the girls and the effort they put into the match. Just this morning it was the first time for some of the girls to put on a mouthguard. I’m just really proud of the girls and proud to represent my country.”
Photos: Oceania Rugby
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