The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup final will played between the Argentina Pampas XV and Reds A in Sydney on Sunday following the climax of the round robin stage which saw nine teams play 16 matches across 10 venues in five cities in Australia.
The Pampas XV claimed their spot in the final by beating Tonga A 47-20 in Canberra on Wednesday in the last pool match to remain unbeaten in the development tournament.
Impressive throughout the pool stages, the Pampas XV also beat ACT A, Gen Blue (NSW A) and Samoa A. The debutants claimed three try bonus points in their four Pool B matches to finish as the best placed team after the pool stages with 19 points.
The Pampas XV, under the tutelage of national coach Daniel Hourcade, will play the Reds A side in the final after they finished joint top of Pool A with five-time defending champions the Fiji Warriors on 11 points.
Both teams won two of their three matches as did Force A, who finished with 10 points having achieved less bonus points. Reds A, though, qualified for the final due to their 22-19 win over the Warriors in their pool match.
Good for development
“It was a pretty tough game as was the match against Samoa last week, but we need that, it’s good for the team as we prepare for the final and we are very happy to win today,” Pampas XV scrum half Martin Landajo admitted after the Tonga match.
“We know the Reds are a good team and we respect them and obviously they are playing well having reached the final also.
“The tournament has been wonderful but different for us. It is perhaps a bit less physical than rugby at home or in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa where we have been playing but here the rugby is much quicker. So we now have experience in all of these styles and it is good for our development.”
The Pacific Island teams all showed promise in the tournament with Fiji Warriors leading the way with victories over Junior Japan and Force A to just miss out on the final. Tonga A also won two of their four matches, claiming wins over ACT A and Gen Blue. Samoa A beat Tonga A in their pool match but unfortunately lost narrowly to Gen Blue (17-14) and ACT A (18-17).
Fiji Warriors will play Tonga A as the curtain raiser to the Pacific Rugby Cup final at TG Milner Oval in Sydney to determine who finishes third.
“The match was a very good opportunity for us to measure our players against good quality opposition. We showed in patches some very good rugby and how good we can be,” explained Tonga national coach Mana Otai, who watched the match against the Pampas XV.
Talent identification opportunity
“I learned a lot about how the young players cope with such pressure and it was perfect for me to be here to watch them today.
“We are learning and improving every year and this year we have performed much better. Our selection is now more professional and we are including all Tongans who are eligible, from home, and for the first time overseas.
“For Tonga we now concentrate on the Pacific Nations Cup in June, which of course it is all part of the Rugby World Cup build up for next year.
“Preparations are going well and are on track for the PNC. We are working hard to identify the right players and make sure they are playing in top-level competitions so they are always improving. The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup has been great to identify new talent also.”
The Pacific Rugby Cup is being underwritten by the International Rugby Board through its strategic initiative funding programme. The month-long tournament is designed as a high performance pathway tournament to give the Australian, Pacific Island, Japanese and Argentinean Unions the opportunity to develop their up and coming talent.
The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup is the perfect lead-up tournament to the Pacific Nations Cup in June this year that will see the national teams from Fiji, Tonga and Samoa in one pool and Canada, USA and Japan in another pool. The two pool winners will meet to decide the title.
IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2014 results
Force A 29-23 Reds A
Force A 61-16 Junior Japan
Reds A 22-19 Fiji Warriors
Reds A 81-7 Junior Japan
Force A 20-36 Fiji Warriors
Queensland Under 20 40-26 Junior Japan
New South Wales Under 20 24-49 Fiji Warriors
Junior Japan 13-99 Fiji Warriors
Gen Blue 23-17 ACT A
Gen Blue 17-14 Samoa A
ACT A 28-32 Argentina Pampas XV
Samoa A 27-18 Tonga A
Gen Blue 16-31 Argentina Pampas XV
ACT A 20-29 Tonga A
Argentina Pampas XV 38-24 Samoa A
Gen Blue 21-29 Tonga A
ACT A 18-17 Samoa A
Argentina Pampas XV 47-20 Tonga A
Matias Cortese tries to break through the Tonga A defence - Photo: Prensa UAR