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History at Oceania Sevens as Samoa and Fiji book their tickets to Paris 2024

By Finn Morton
Players of Samoa during the match between Japan and Samoa on day one of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series - Dubai at The Sevens Stadium on December 02, 2022 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Christopher Pike/Getty Images)

Samoa and Fiji have booked their tickets to Paris 2024 after winning their respective Olympic qualifying finals at the Oceania Sevens at Brisbane’s Ballymore Stadium.

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For the first time ever, the Samoan men’s sevens team are off to the world’s biggest sporting show after recording a commanding 24-nil win over Papua New Guinea in a one-sided final.

To their credit, PNG took it to their heavily favoured opponents right from the get-go. The Pukpuks controlled possession for most of the first minute, but it was all Samoa from there.

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BJ Lima opened the scoring early in the first term, and tries to Taunuu Niuleavaea and Pelasio Samuelu Niuula all but won the match for Manu Samu before the end of the half.

With the final play of the first half, Samuelu Niuula slammed the ball down with authority as the significance of what this team appeared destined to achieve began to sink in.

The second term was a bit more of a battle, with point-scoring opportunities proving hard to come by for both teams.  Individual brilliance from Faafoi Falaniko was the difference.

Falaniko created something special from nothing. The Samoan international kicked the ball behind the PNG defensive line and chased it with purpose, and he reaped the rewards.

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While the ball initially appeared set to race for the dead ball line – Falaniko gave it everything just 25 metres out from the try line – the ball sat up perfectly for the score.

Moments later, the full-time siren sounded on a beautiful afternoon in Brisbane and the Samoan supporters, players and coaches soaked up their achievement.

“The siren has gone and history-making, legacy created – Samoa, the first time in their history, stamped a ticket to the Olympics in Paris next year,” Stan Sport commentator Jordan Hughes said.

“What a moment for Samoa. The Islands will be going berserk now, you can see what it means to them. This is special.”

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With everything on the line, Samoa had lived up to their ‘favourites’ status to take out the Oceania Olympic Final, but the hard work has only “just begun.”

BJ Lima was interviewed just after the full-time siren had sounded. You could see the emotion draped across his face as the try-scorer tried to find the words to summarise the moment.

“First of all I give thanks back to the man above for His love and His protection. None of this would be possible without our families,” Lima said on Stan Sport.

“This whole week we’ve felt the support and we just want to say thank you.

“I think the hard works just begun.”

About 15 minutes later – following the Australia women’s win over a New Zealand development side – Fiji and Papua New Guinea ran out onto Ballymore for their date with Olympics destiny.

Fiji ended up winning this final by an emphatic scoreline of 54-nil.

After just 10 seconds, disaster struck for PNG. A yellow card saw the Pukpuks drop to a one-player disadvantage – and Fiji made the most of it.

Alowesi Nakoci scored the first points of the Olympics decider inside two minutes, and Fijiana added another two later on to take a hard-earned lead into the break.

Raijieli Daveua danced through the PNG defensive line with a brilliant goosestep before throwing a heart-stopping pass to Ana Naisami to complete the score closer to the sticks.

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Moments later, Nakoci pounced on a loose ball to cross for a brace. Fiji had raced out to a seemingly unassailable 21-nil advantage on the back of a two-try blitz late in the half.

Fiji piled more point-scoring misery on their opponents with Daveua crossing for her second. Truly, that try was something special – slicing through the defensive line on the back of some rapid pace and brilliant skill.

More try-scoring fun saw the Fijiana complete their relentless 54-point demolition of the previously undefeated Papua New Guinea side.

“It concludes a speculator match for Fiji, who are heading to the Paris 2024 Olympics,” commentator Martin Lippiatt said.

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