Fiji - this time with a core of players from their sevens team - have retained their Oceania XVs title, beating Samoa in the decisive match. Tonga also came from behind to win a test match for the first time.
Report: Last Word on Rugby
The Fijiana have won and retained, their Oceania Championship title, after thrashing Samoa 43-12 at Churchill Park in Lautoka. A great result, as Fijiana won by scoring seven-tries-to-two, in another dominant display in front of a home crowd.
The Oceania XVs Championship final round saw matches between Tonga and Papua New Guinea, before the ‘main event’ involving Fijiana and Manu Sina [Samoa].
The Fijian national women’s team have gelled terrifically over the three-match series. Taking maximum points on offer, they challenged themselves and performed at a higher level – just like the men’s XVs side do.
In this third round match, the ball went the way of the hosts, with Fiji leading 33-7 at halftime. They continued to ‘pile on the pressure’ to wrap up the International match, 43-12.
Fiji’s tries came from Timaima Ravisa, Karalani Naisewa, Rusila Tamoi (2) and Tokasa Seniyasi in the opening half. Merewai Cumu who created both of Tamoi’s tries, grabbed one herself in the final quarter. Captain Rusila Nagasau rounded out the scoring, to secure the title.
Samoa could only manage to score two tries, but they did put in a huge effort, to limit the damage; Fijiana wins by huge margins, so to hold them to a 30 point margin brings some respectability [by comparison to the opening two rounds]. Samoa’s two tries were scored by Saelua Leaula and replacement Lumepa Maiava.
Fijiana Captain’s post-game reaction
“I’d like to thank each and everyone for supporting us today. We know that women’s rugby is not that important in Fiji but this is what we’ve done as our aim was to set a platform not only in Fiji, but also the Pacific and the world,” Rusila Nagasau said to Oceania Rugby.
The respect between the sides is noticeable. When they play each other regularly - this is due to become an annual Championship their playing style will develop, their systems and organization will improve, and it will show in the years to come.
Sui Pauraisa, Samoa captain said “We’re so proud of the girls and we’re blessed to be Samoan as this is just the beginning. We aim now to try and make the Women’s Rugby World Cup.”
In the opening match of the day, Tonga were too strong for the Papua New Guinea Palais, overcoming them 62-26. The reds of Tonga ran in 10 tries, with Palais scoring four themselves.
In a game played in the heat of the day, after a quality first half, where PNG showed Tonga some real defence and had periods of attack, unfortunately, their second-half performance would let them down. From being 21-15 down, they fell away poorly, to be beaten by 36 points.
Tongan women’s XV captain’s reaction
“This is only the third time for some of our girls to ever play rugby, so we’re just grateful to have this opportunity and I’m proud the girls gave it their all,” Vainga Moimoi, Tongan captain explained to Oceania Rugby.
With Tonga going through a rebuilding phase, the women who can further develop their games in local competition and International matches like this, will create a more ‘equal playing field’ for others to benefit.
Opposition skipper Debbie Kaore said, “We came for a purpose but unfortunately we didn’t get what we wanted. But hopefully next time, it won’t be so bad and we will come back even harder.”
That is a great attitude to have, as in any sport, showing a will to play the full 80 minutes takes determination. All 23 Palaise women should be congratulated for their dedication, ina sport which is second to rugby league back in their homeland. Hopefully, rugby can gain a strong foothold in Port Moresby and across the Islands.
There were plenty of stars who stood out in the tournament, from all of the teams. However, the Samoan’s and Fijian’s were a class above the rest; especially the former Sevens stars.
For Manu Sina, lock Taylah Hodson-Tomokino, blindside flanker Marilyn Live, openside flanker and captain Sui Puarasi, and number eight Nina Foaese really stood out. They all put in plenty of work, in tough conditions: In the backs, Billy-Jean Ale and Josephine Falesita were strong in the centres. However, fullback Soteria Puluma was the rock for the Samoans at the back. Her vision in attack and running lines was outstanding. And so was her defense, in stopping Fijiana players from scoring more tries with a quality tackling technique. Jiowana Sauto was probably the ‘Player of the Tournament’ for her valiant efforts. She was in the thick of everything from attack to defense. A former Sevens star, so she used her experience well, as did fellow loosie Lavenia Tinai. They both created opportunities in the game, as any good playmaker should.
For the Fijiana the platform is laid up front from Leilani Burnes and Makereta Tunidau. Ana Roqica was devastating at halfback; creating and maintaining her forwards interplay and defensive system. Players like Torika Seniyasi are growing in confidence, after every outing. Rusila Nagasau ruled the centres, with Tima Ravisa at fullback showing her qualities.
Vaiga Moimoi and her young Tongan side will get better from the experience gained. The challenge for them is to have regular matches, to maintain a high level of competitiveness. Debbie Kaore and Joanne Lagona will help their Palais side in moving forward.
Teams to be added when published by Oceania Rugby.