Australia men and Fiji women both won their respective Oceania Sevens titles and were rewarded with places at the 2016 Olympic Games rugby sevens tournament in Rio de Janeiro.
Both teams remained unbeaten over the weekend and were clearly the best teams in their respective events as the scores in the finals suggest. Australia beat Tonga 50-0 in their final while Fijiana overcame Samoa 55-0.
Australia Too Strong
Under interim coach Tim Walsh Australia were superb over the two-day tournament. Aggressive at the breakdown and clinical at the restarts and with ball in open play they scored 138 points in their three matches on finals day and conceded no tries or points.
Stand-out players were skipper Ed Jenkins, Greg Jeloudev and Tom Cusack along with Jesse Parahi who was playing his last sevens event before taking up a Super Rugby contract. Attracting much attention also was 18-year-old newcomer Henry Hutchison whose pace and footwork marks him as a star of the future.
“After the disappointment of not qualifying through the World Series in London we have put in five months of preparation. We knew we had the chance to qualify but we lost our coach recently and credit to Tim Walsh the women’s coach who stepped in and has got us to this point and winning the event,” declared Australian captain Ed Jenkins.
“Now that we have qualified we can start to think properly about Rio. We can now plan the coming season that starts in Dubai soon but it is exciting times for sevens in Australia. One thing for sure the Rio tournament is going to be very tough but to be a part of it is tremendous for the team.”
The surprise of the day was Tonga men who easily beat Samoa in the semi-finals 41-5. It was an impressive performance from Tonga and just reward for a team whose form continued to build and improve as the tournament went on. Second place sees them qualify for the final World Rugby Olympic repechage tournament in 2016.
For Samoa, who had looked like a real threat to Australia after day one, it was their worst performance of the weekend. Some consolation is the fact that by beating Papua New Guinea in the third place play-off they will join Tonga in the 2016 repechage. Either Tonga or Samoa could easily still end up in Rio de Janeiro.
Fijiana continue to rise
The Fijian women were the shining stars of their tournament and had pace, physicality and patterns of play that were too sophisticated for their opponents. Fijiana beat Papua New Guinea 43-0 in their last pool match on day two before beating the same opposition 58-0 in the semi-final.
Starring for Fijiana were Rebecca Tavo, Litia Naiqato and the dominating presence around the field of Rusila Nagasau who scored four tries in the final.
“Firstly we have to thank all our supporters and of course our coaches who really believed in us. We worked really hard over the last eight weeks at home to get here and we are very happy,” said delighted Fijiana captain Anna Maria Roquica said,
“We are so pleased to qualify for the Olympics but we know we have to improve our fitness and skills further. Importantly we have to keep believing in ourselves.”
Samoa showed great promise and have improved markedly and by finishing second won a spot in the women’s World Rugby Olympic repechage tournament in 2016. Joining them courtesy of beating Papua New Guinea in the third place play-off will be a delighted Cook Islands who were the surprise package of the women’s tournament.
Men’s finals results
Seventh place play-off: American Samoa 33-12 Nauru
Fifth place play-off: Solomon Islands 14-17 Cook Islands
Third place play-off: Samoa 54-0 Papua New Guinea
Final: Australia 50-0 Tonga
Women’s finals results
Third plac play-off: Cook Islands 32-0 Papua New Guinea
Final: Fiji 55-0 Samoa
For all the the results from the Oceania Sevens click HERE>>