By KEITH PUARIA
PAPUA New Guinea’s rugby sevens side set another benchmark for the team at the Carlton Sevens in Sri Lanka last weekend, as tournaments count away towards their return to the International Rugby Board Sevens Circuit in Wellington and Adelaide, early next year.
The team returned from their Sri Lankan baptism and 6th placing with a lot of promise ahead of next year’s IRB calendar.
They also have a wealth of experience to build on.
Assistant coach Willie Rikis told The National yesterday the team showed a lot of maturity in Sri Lanka, especially with the other five teams, NZ Legends, Samoa Barbarians, Aussie Legends, South African Vipers and Fiji Digicel, littered with top rung sevens representatives from their respective national sides.
The six teams played in the International Pool, while the Asian countries contested in another level, amongst themselves.
PNG started the tournament on a high after shocking New Zealand Legends 33-19 but could not repeat the performance losing the next four matches.
In the match against Fiji Digicel, the eventual tournament winners, PNG trailed 15-0 at half time however the Pukpuks defence improved markedly in the second half to keep the rampant Fijians scoreless.
PNG’s results in the other pool games were a 29-7 loss to the Samoan Barbarians, a 19-7 loss to the South African Vipers and a 19-12 loss to the Aussie Legends in the last match.
Rikis said the experience was educational.
“It was very encouraging, what’s made the difference is the better understanding and knowledge of the game,” Rikis said.
“The game is at a pretty high standard out there and the improvement of our knowledge of the game is part of these performances.”
The team will now go into a short rest before, their next commitment and next year’s full calendar.
Rikis also said that changes would be made when the team returns for build-up to Wellington.
The preparation camp in Suva, Fiji on Jan 16 will include a sevens tournament that will see 80 teams compete and may see the side play eight games a day in the two-day tournament.
Attendance at the event will no doubt introduce the team to the standard that must be expected.