TWO days of top action at the MRDC PNG Sevens at Bava Park, Port Moresby, came down to an emotionally dedicated all-New Britain Cup final yesterday.
Kimbe Rebels opened the floodgates in the second half to run away 42-21 victors over Tomaringa Royals and with K8,000 in prize money too, courtesy of a spectacular performance from player-of-the tournament, Leo Tikot Jr.
But it was before the opening of the final that the whole of NGI rugby would have been proud of when both teams walked on hand in hand, huddled and dedicated their final to the late “father” of New Guinea Island rugby and diehard Royals and mentor, Andrew Kaiat, who passed away a month ago.
The action in the final, however, turned brutal on the whistle, as Eric Kaiat and his troops quickly turned it up against a fired Rebels side.
Royals held their own against the former champions in the first half with speedsters Elias Roboam and Rebels’ Tikot Jr shedding pure speed to outgun all for the line.
The contest went to a 14-14 halftime score, but with the wind behind their backs and memories of their loss early in the year to Port Moresby still fresh, the Rebels were not giving anything away.
Experience quickly came to the fore mid-game, as captain Michael Vitolo, Ponda brothers, Gare, Tony and Daniel driving hard up the middle, creating space for man of the moment Tikot and Timothy Pola.
Royals’ Tuvi Lepan, Timothy Masiu and Kaiat worked hard to create the spark only to fall short in a couple of telling raids “downtown”.
The final ended a long hard weekend for the rugby faithful, but it was the performance of the outside centres and the minnows that opened eyes to the talent in the game.
With crowd pleasers Daru knocked out earlier during the day, it was the Oro side that created a bit of a buzz on their way to the plate final, and then only edging past, “electric” newcomers Mendi for K3,000 and plate.
The Presidents Seven Select A side had to settle for the Bowl after a long day on Saturday, running on, yesterday with world sevens master and coach Waisale Serevi having a run with the youngsters.
The masters’ first game, will be long remembered, as Serevi showed glimpses of the direction and art of the shortened version of the game at Bava.
MRDC managing director Augustine Mano was a happy man at the end, pledging support for the growth of sevens and the tournament for the next four years.
“There is a lot of potential in sevens, and if you have not noticed, PNG can be world champions in this game,” Mano said.
The tournament was also generously assisted by Petroleum Resources Kutubu (PRK) with an eleventh hour contribution of K10,000 increasing the prize monies for Cup, Plate and Bowl divisions.
The other top performers for the weekend were Bougainville, Mendi, Aku Flyers, made up of Port Moresby Vipers players, and Port Moresby.
Other teams that played off in the earlier knockouts were Madang, Rabaul, Goroka, Lae and Jets, a Port Moresby based U20 side.