The Solomon Islands rugby union 15s team (aka 'Warriors') participation at the recent Oceania cup in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea from 29 November to 3 December 2011 has received immense admiration from many rugby critics. From a spectator's point of view, the team was by far one of the best disciplined Solomon Islands has produced in recent memory. In the four nations tournament, they manage to beat 2008 champions Niue 22-19, the fast and spirited Vanuatu team 48-20 and only lost to a more polished PNG Pukpuks side by 15-33.
On paper, the team consists mostly of debutant on such a significant International Rugby Board (IRB) sanctioned competition, with many regular so-called veterans missing from the line-up. Per se, there was not much high hope and excitement on the prospect of a good show from the Warriors. However, the team did not see this as obstacle to achieving their goal but rather as motivation to accomplish their mission during the PNG tour.
The selection and coaching panel should be applauded for a job well done on selecting a young inexperience team, clearly base on form. The team may not have the big name players of yesteryear's but they did have guts, and display high quality discipline and determination on and off the field, which has won them many new fans over the week long tournament.
Overall, Solomon Islands was the runner up to the host nation but two of the Warriors' players took out the Oceania cup's top two individual awards for the best Forward (Fredson Soaki) and the best Backline (Felix Galo). If memory serves me right, this is the first time Solomon Islands rugby players manage to scoop such prestigious individual accolades in an IRB sanctioned 15s competition.
The PNG Pukpuks might have beaten Warriors but that is anticipated with the amount of resources PNG rugby has invested in preparing their rugby union team, more so, with the appointment of former All Blacks & Wales international, Shane Howarth as national coach and his team of expat assistant coaches.
Since the heroic efforts of the 1991 South Pacific Games team which last beat the Pukpuks in POM, on their way to winning the bronze medal and a draw a year later in Honiara, that was all that the Solo boys has to show against their PNG opponents. This Warriors team has put up a top performance that very nearly brought back glory after period of twenty years. The final score in that match didn't really reflect the titanic struggle of the game, especially in the first half. In short, the game was decided due to basic errors and wrong option taking in crucial stages of the second half mostly by the Warriors backline; otherwise the game might have gone either way.
To the Solomon Islands Rugby Union Federation (SIRUF), in order for avoid a one-off great performance and a slip in standard after this tournament's high, the core of the current squad should be retain for future Federation of Oceania Rugby Union (FORU) competitions and other upcoming matches. I must highlight that after the Warriors exceptional performance at the Lloyd Robson Oval, the Solomon Islands team is now seen by the local media in PNG as genuine contender amongst other FORU Development & Targeted unions for the top prize in future Oceania cup tournaments. On that note, SIRUF should continue to work with the relevant stakeholders and sponsors to improve the standard of the domestic game.
Furthermore, SIRUF should continue to liaise with IRB to secure additional assistance to develop young age-group competitions, with the vision to market our young potential players to overseas amateur and professional clubs. This is the way to improve and sharpen the skills of our local players through international exposure to high quality regular club competitions and modern training facilities. It is high time, SIRUF starts seriously looking at engaging qualified foreigner as full-time or part-time Technical Advisor with funding support from IRB, for all our national teams, 15s, 7s, under 19s etc.
Finally, a special thanks to the Warriors team management and players for your overwhelming efforts during the 2011 Oceania cup, which has put smiles on many of your fans. From us wantoks, living, working and studying in Papua New Guinea, we are truly proud of the achievements of our boys.
Well done Warriors, Go Solo Go.
William McDonald Forautawea
Congratulations to Solomon Islands ruby team at the 2011 Oceania cup
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter are those of William McDonald Forautawea and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.
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