CHAM­PI­ONS

mailife - - Sports - By JONE KALOUNIVITI pho­tos by FEROZ KHALIL

Fiji is the new Ocea­nia 7s cham­pion af­ter es­cap­ing with a 2819 vic­tory over a spir­ited young Samoan team in what both camps have termed an ex­cel­lent test be­fore the HSBC Se­ries kicks off next month. All core teams of the HSBC se­ries used this tour­na­ment as their fi­nal prepa­ra­tions be­fore the first leg in Dubai next month. If there was any­thing about this tour­na­ment, it would be how vir­tu­ally un­known play­ers rose up to be counted. Fiji pipped the Samoan’s 4 tries to 3 and while this may worry a proud Fi­jian rugby pub­lic, in­terim coach Na­canieli Cawanibuka had noth­ing but praise for his team. “We al­ways knew that Samoa would be a very tough team, but I am happy with how we played be­cause the new play­ers ex­ceeded my ex­pec­ta­tions, they were calm un­der pres­sure and worked well with the ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers,” said Cawanibuka. Fiji cap­tain Osea Kolin­isau left the tour­na­ment be­fore the fi­nals as he had to catch a flight to Lon­don for the IRB Rugby Awards but the team had Olympians in Ki­tione Taliga, Jasa Vere­malua and Samisoni Viriviri to guide them. Samoa had only the likes of speed mer­chant Samoa Toloa and hard work­ing cap­tain Tila Mealoi as the ex­pe­ri­enced cam­paign­ers in their midst but made the Fi­jians work hard for their win. Samoa had es­caped meet­ing the Fi­jians ear­lier when they beat tour­na­ment cham­pi­ons Aus­tralia on Day 1 which lined them up for a semi-fi­nal clash with PNG. The Aus­tralians had to meet the likes of the Olympic cham­pi­ons in the semis and lost 19-7. Gor­don Ti­et­jens, who of­fi­cial be­gins his ten­ure in Jan­uary 2017 as Samoa coach, was im­pressed with the at­ti­tude shown by the

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