Hosts Papua New Guinea remain on course to win the 2011 Oceania Cup after beating Solomon Islands 33-15 to make it two wins in as many days at the Lloyd Robson Oval in Port Moresby on Thursday.
Papua New Guinea, who had overwhelmed Vanuatu 78-3 on Tuesday, took the lead after only two minutes when Solomon Islands lost the ball deep in their opponents half, number 8 George Oki scooping it and offloading to wing Christopher Kakah to race 40 metres and score.
Solomon Islands centre Vivian Kelesi looked lively and caused problems for the PNG midfield, but it was the hosts who came nearest to scoring next only for centre Tisa Kautu to be stopped just short. Instead, the two teams traded penalties to leave PNG leading 8-3 at the half hour mark.
Papua New Guinea dominated possession for much of the first half but couldn’t turn it into points and they were made to pay for a lapse in concentration when captain Corey Chapman drove over from an attacking scrum to send the Solomon Islands in with a 10-8 half-time lead.
The second half began with both teams uncharacteristically keen to keep the ball tight among the forwards, something the Solomon Islands would regret after turning the ball over for Kakah to score his second try of the match.
Two more tries in quick succession put the Pukpuks in the driving seat with wing Andrew Samson touching down before Kakah completed his hat-trick. Samson added a second just before the hour mark with flanker Billy Torea also touching down before a consolation try for Ferdson Soaki.
First win for Niue
Niue are all that stand between Papua New Guinea and the title, their final day opponents having bounced back from a surprise 22-19 loss to Solomon Islands on day one with a 32-15 victory over Vanuatu in Thursday’s first match.
Things did not start well for Niue, the kick-off not going 10 metres and then a string of dropped passes wasting scoring opportunities. Vanuatu, by contrast, seized their chance in the sixth minute when wing Patrick August raced 60 metres to score.
Shell-shocked by the try, Niue regrouped and struck back almost immediately when prop Moree Tukuniu barged his way over the line. Niue had left eight points in the wind after missing three kicks at goal, but the match turned their way when Vanuatu lost prop Phkoa Mangawai to the sin-bin.
While he was off the field Niue scored a second try through number 8 Afargo Laupoli after a surging maul and a penalty by Jaxon Samoa, the centre kicking two further penalties to make Vanuatu pay for some indiscipline and send Niue in with a 19-5 advantage at half-time.
Vanuatu briefly narrowed the gap with a penalty but tries by speedster Manoa Lito and Laupoli by the hour mark all but wrapped up the match. To their credit, Vanuatu refused to give up and were rewarded with a last minute try by replacement Jenery Toara.
The Oceania Cup concludes on Saturday with Vanuatu taking on the Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea coming face to face with Niue at the Lloyd Robson Oval.
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