AUCKLAND – Australia and Fiji have won the men’s and women’s titles at the Oceania Sevens Championship in clinical fashion to seal their spot at next year’s Olympics.
But hope still remains for Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands, who will get one final chance to make it to Rio.
Australia thrashed surprise finalists Tonga 50-0 in the men’s final while Fiji were equally dominant in the women’s final decider, piling on 55 unanswered points against Samoa.
Both teams finished unbeaten, with Australia conceding just one try and the Fijiana no points at all throughout the weekend.
The Director of Women’s Sevens in Fiji, Chris Cracknell, says his players were outstanding.
“To come here and put into practice what we’ve done for the last eight weeks was fantastic and they did that to the letter.
“I sat up here on Saturday morning and I watched some of the other teams play, and then I thought, ‘oh this is going to be really, really tough’ and part of me thought I’m not sure if we’ve got this and after the first game my confidence was assured in the girls that they were going to do a job this weekend and they were fantastic, put their hands up and every one of them one to twelve were brilliant.”
The Olympic dream is not yet over for the second and third place finishers in Auckland.
Samoa were stunned 41-5 by Tonga in the men’s semi finals but bounced back to outclass Papua New Guinea 54-0 in the playoff for third place to join Tonga in advancing to a final Olympic repechage tournament next year.
Head coach Damian McGrath was happy to still be in the mix and hopes local fans aren’t too hard on the team.
“I hope that they see how far we’ve come in a short space of time and you know Rome wasn’t built in a day, as the old saying goes.
“From where we were last year and the disappointment – I think we’re on the right track. We’ve literally had nine weeks as a team so we’ve come such a long way and it’s been an upward curve all the way so we’ve had to expect a hiccup – it was a bigger hiccup than I was hoping for but we finished well.”
The Samoa women’s team will also feature at the final repechage event, alongside the Cook Islands.
The Cooks beat Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Samoa in pool play before a narrow 17-15 loss to the Manusina in the semi finals.
The new-look side recovered to thrash PNG 32-0 in the third-place playoff to keep their Olympic hopes afloat.
Captain Elizabeth Pera says the team learnt a lot over the weekend and now have a clear idea of the standard required to go futher.
“It feels awesome. I’m so proud of the girls – we never lost hope, not for one second so it’s awesome.
“Our goal of course was to try our best against Fiji and to come first but of course it hasn’t worked out like that but third place is still good.
“I think we’ve got a good team but we can go away and work hard and we’ll be back and hopefully we will be up there with the likes of Fiji.”
The repechage tournament is expected to take place in June next year following the end of the World Series which kick off next month. - RNZI