Samoa off to winning start at Oceania Sevens
Both the Manu Samoa and Manusina 7s had winning starts to their Olympic qualifying campaigns on Day One of the Oceania Sevens.
However neither win came easy, with Samoa's women a little lucky to escape with a 21-19 win over the Cook Islands, and the men struggling until halftime of their 33-7 win over Papua New Guinea.
The Manu Samoa 7s started well on defence, containing Papua New Guinea with solid tackling before forcing a turnover on halfway.
Wing John Vaili made a nice run, then halfback Laaloi Leilua snuck through the line for a try in the 3rd minute.
P.N.G. replied soon after though, keeping the ball moving with good offloading until the Manu line cracked and they levelled the scores at 7-all.
Joe Perez came close to scoring for the Manu with the last play of the half, but Papua New Guinea held on.
Clearly less than impressed with how his team were performing, Manu 7s coach Sir Gordon Tietjens rung the changes at halftime, bringing Kerisimisi Savaiinaea, Belgium Tuatagaloa and Elisapeta Alofipo on for Tofatuimoana Solia, Losi Filipo and John Vaili.
That was the rev-up the Manu needed, and they scored immediately after the break.
Receiving the kickoff inside their 22, Samoa shifted the ball wide to Perez, who broke the line and fed Tuatagaloa for an easy try.
P.N.G. were becoming sloppy in possession, and Samoa scored their third on the counter when Laaloi Leilua threw a nice dummy and dotted down to make it 21-7.
Tomasi Alosio scored the Manu's fourth at the end of a flowing passing move, and there was time for one more try to Alamanda Motuga on fulltime.
The Manu Samoa 7s will play the Solomon Islands at 8:42 pm Samoan time, their second and final game on day one.
Earlier, the Manusina 7s escaped with a 21-19 win over the Cook Islands in their first game of the Oceania Sevens.
An early Alafou Fatu knock-on had them under the pump to start the game, but they defended well and forced the Cook Islands out of play.
Wing Apaau Mailau then burnt off a 70-metre solo run, showing a lot of gas and a nice find to score Samoa’s first try of the tournament.
The Manusina doubled their lead with a minute left in the half, making it 14-0 with a nice counterattacking move.
Elisapeta Leti won the ball at the breakdown and started the break from inside the 22, and Faalua Lefulefu scored the try at the other end.
A late defensive mixup meant the Cook Islands scored right on halftime though, keeping them within seven points.
And they tied it up inside a minute of the second half, taking advantage of more poor scrambling defence to make it 14-14.
In the leadup to the try, Lefulefu picked up what looked like a nasty knee injury as well, putting the rest of her tournament in doubt.
A bit of individual brilliance from Saelua Seleti put Samoa back in the lead, when she chipped in behind the line and won the race to the ball to get the Manusina 7s third try.
The Cook Islands soon replied, however crucially missed their conversion, hitting the crossbar from right in front of the posts.
With time up, the Cook Islands were on the attack but knocked the ball on with an overlap out wide.
The win puts Samoa second in Pool C behind Papua New Guinea, who were dominant 52-0 winners over Tonga in the other Day One match.
The top two teams from Pool C will advance to the Olympic Qualifier semifinals, with hosts and division favourites Fiji on the other side of the draw.
With their Day One complete, the Manusina 7s now look forward to pool games against Tonga (1 pm Samoan time) and Papua New Guinea (5:46 pm Samoan time) on Friday
In the first game of the tournament, Samoa’s deaf men’s sevens team fought out a 7-5 loss against Fiji Totokia.
Both sides were plagued by errors throughout, and a missed conversion proved the difference after Ionatana Tofa’s late try gave Samoa a chance to tie it up.
Samoa's next game is against Fiji NaiUla at 12:22 pm on Friday Samoan time.