Fiji may have been crowned Oceania Under 19 champions following a 20-8 defeat of hosts Samoa at Apia Park, but Papua New Guinea also had cause to celebrate after qualifying for a second successive IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy with a 41-3 victory over Vanuatu.
Papua New Guinea had beaten the same opponents at the regional championship in 2008 by a much greater margin - 84-0 - to secure a first appearance at the following year's IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, where they finished sixth overall with their "run everything" game plan resulting in some breath-taking tries in Kenya.
Vanuatu had warmed up for this encounter with an 89-3 loss to Fiji a few days earlier and showed that they are closing the gap on their rivals by halving the number of points Papua New Guinea scored this time around, the extra size of the Pukpuks ultimately seeing them to the victory.
The match proved a fitting opener on a day of festival rugby, both sides playing an expansive game and itching to have a go at each other, every attack being greeted with respect and copybook defence. Papua New Guinea were slick, but each time the Vanuatu players proved equal to the task in defence.
Papua New Guinea number 8 Joshua Posu was a constant thorn in Vanuatu's side, charging hard at the defence and gaining hard yards on numerous occasions, his tireless work-rate matched by the rest of his teammates as they tried to overcome a team hungry to cause a big upset at Apia Park.
In the end, for all their efforts and the part they played in entertaining the crowds, it was Papua New Guinea who emerged victorious with fly half Joel Wimbi, prop Fairi Fairi and flanker Chris Memani crossing for first half tries to send the Pukpuks in leading 19-3 at half-time with Lawrence Kunro Kalo's penalty Vanuatu's only points.
Vanuatu held out for 16 minutes in the second half, but tries from replacement Joel Sawong, Posu and two more for Memani to complete his hat-trick saw Papua New Guinea to a victory and another chance to showcase their running rugby on the international stage in the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
Fiji avenge loss to Samoa
Samoa had beaten Fiji 34-22 on day one, but there was to be no repeat in a final played at full throttle despite the hot and humid condition in Apia. The encounter was a typical Pacific Islands battle with plenty of big hits and vibrant attacking, although the first half surprisingly ended without a try being scored with penalties from Karl Malielegaoi and Fiji captain Noa Nakaitaci cancelling each other out.
The tempo swung Fiji's way and they rode the wave all the way to the final whistle to be crowned Oceania Under 19 champions. Both sides lost players to the sin-bin before Nakaitaci's 50th minute penalty extended the advantage to 13-3.
Samoa started playing catch-up rugby and while their enforcing tactics up front continued, it was as if everything was done in a hurry. When they did slow down and think smart, the hosts - who had finished above Fiji and Tonga in this year's IRB TOSHIBA Junior World Championship in Japan - looked extremely dangerous.
Fiji, meanwhile, grew in confidence with their advantage on the scoreboard and played with more and more purpose. The killer blow came with 15 minutes left, when wing Filipe Tabu rounded off a move that had begun deep in Fiji's half and Nakaitaci kicked the conversion to take the visitors out to 20-3.
The game was all but beyond the Samoans, but the hosts did have the final say when number 8 Sopoiafa Tikeri set up a late try for his fellow back row Robert Gabriel. Fiji were the ones celebrating come the final whistle and will hope to build on this success when they travel to Argentina for next year's Junior World Championship.
24 Aug 2009
3:00pm - Fiji 22-34 Samoa
28 Aug 2009
4:00pm - Tonga 8-9 Fiji
31 Aug 2009
2:00pm - Fiji 89-3 Vanuatu
4:00pm - Tonga 11-13 Samoa
4 Sep 2009
2:00pm - Papua New Guinea 41-3 Vanuatu
4:00pm - Samoa 8-20 Fiji
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