Fiji and Samoa faced off for Pacific Games Rugby 7s championship
Honiara. SOLOMON ISLANDS — The 2023 Pacific Games rugby 7s competition ended last Saturday with the Flying Fijians defeating Manu Samoa 19-5 to take the gold medal, while Tonga grabbed the bronze medal by defeating Papua New Guinea 19-7.
The American Samoa national men’s team, Talavalu faced off with Vanuatu for 5th and 6th places, which Talavalu won comfortably 20-5.
Before that, they played against Solomon Islands to determine which team would proceed to the 5th and 6th deciding game, and which would proceed to the 7th and 8th decider.
Fortunately for Talavalu, they overpowered the Solomons team in a 17-10 win.
In an interview with Head Coach Jioko, he stated that he had great expectations from his team, but they did not follow the game plan in the quarterfinals against PNG.
“I told them to try and slow down the game by using our bigger forwards to bash their way through the opponents defense, then hold off releasing the ball until the backs were in position for another attack,” Coach Jioko said. “But they tried to match the pace the PNG team were playing and of course they were no match for the faster PNG backline. We were thrashed 39-5 by PNG.”
And fortunately for Talavalu, they stuck to the game plan in their next two outings, first with Solomon Islands and then Vanuatu for 5th and 6th places.
“We were unlucky to fall just short of medal contention, but we also have to think about recruiting players from the mainland or Hawaii because some of the international fixtures like the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers in Brisbane, Australia do not accept non-US passport holders,” the coach pointed out. “Some of the teams in this year’s Pacific Games like Wallis & Futuna are fielding French players and their women’s team won bronze!”
The national women’s rugby 7s team, Segaula on the other hand finished 6th.
They started their campaign with disappointing losses to PNG 35-0 and Tonga 36-10 in pool play, then again went down 19-5 to Solomon Islands in the playoffs to finish their campaign at 6th place.
According to Head Coach Tommy Elisara, his team is new to the international arena after just having debuted at the Oceania Olympics Qualifiers in Brisbane, Australia.
He also echoed Coach Jioko’s sentiments about recruiting players from off-island to solve the problem of a small player pool to choose from locally.
“The Wallis & Futuna team was the big surprise of these Games, beating established teams like Tonga and winning the bronze medal,” Coach Tommy pointed out. “But almost all their players are based in France! We must do the same with our mainland-based players to improve our standard of play and of course our ranking in the region.”
He stated that despite the mediocre performance by his team, at least their ranking has improved from 8th place in the Oceania Olympic Qualifiers to 6th at the Pacific Games.
This Pacific Games report is brought to you by the generous sponsorship of Paramount Builders, Inc. and ASNOC.