By KEITH PUARIA
PAPUA New Guinea’s rugby union sevens side snuck into the country yesterday afternoon, from a winless campaign at the Wellington leg of the International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens Circuit.
The national sevens team’s performance at Wellington over the weekend drew disbelief from supporters and the rugby fraternity after so much promise.
An official from PNGRFU expressed that there was no excuse for the team’s poor performance, admitting that expectations had been high, and that a post-mortem was needed urgently.
Changes are expected after several under-par performances in key positions.
Efforts to reach team management after their arrival were unsuccessful.
From a below-par showing, after solid performances in the five-month lead-up preparations, at the Gold Coast Sevens, Tahiti qualifiers, Sri Lanka and Fiji, the national sevens team returned with a scorecard of 0-5.
Opening with promise on day one, Friday, against Australia, with a flashy 45m try to winger Kojo Ware, and only trailing 7-5 at halftime, the earth suddenly moved from underneath at the Westpac Stadium as Australia ran riot in the second stanza with three tries using their superior size advantage.
A little piece of Buckley Joseph initiative handed Albert Levi PNG’s second try of the afternoon but it was not enough, as the Aussies ran out 31-12 winners.
Up against eventual winners Fiji in the second pool match, a true challenge for coach Waisale Serevi against his country-men fell out as the Sevens giants displayed their class in a 41-0 thrashing.
Scotland, a side PNG had a better than even chance of beating, turned the tables however, in the final pool match again and ran in six tries, to Ware’s second try of the tournament for a 34-5 final score.
The first day’s result ultimately placed PNG in the Bowl play-offs, but then a loss to Wales, 31-12, in the bowl quarter-finals further relegated the team to the shield, where a 26-10 loss to Tonga eventually ended their Wellington campaign.
In the midst of a struggling side, forward Monty Diave and Aroma flyer Ware stood out with inspired performances.
Despite having undergone extensive preparations and the recruitment of top sevens mentor, Serevi, PNG still have a long way to go in this format with the rugby fraternityclosely watching.
Meanwhile, Fiji, after four dry years, finally landed the top prize in Wellington, beating Samoa out 19-14 in a typically tight final on Saturday.
They now remain four points behind New Zealand on the current circuit leader board, with Adelaide and Los Angeles the next two legs on the IRB sevens programme.
PNG’s pending assignment though is the IRB Adelaide sevens next month and then a possible berth, due to Fiji’s exclusion from the event, at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.