PNG, Samoa start strong in mixed touch at Pacific Games

Papua New Guinea is pushing hard for a hat-trick in touch at the Samoa 2019 XVI Pacific Games, with a successful opening day in the mixed open event.

Papua New Guinea won gold in the men's and women's events earlier this week at St Joseph's Field, Faleata and appear motivated to complete their golden set.

In Thursday's mixed open, PNG won against Solomon Islands, Tonga and Cook Islands.

Team Samoa was also on a winning streak, beating Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga. Samoa meets PNG in their first encounter at 12.40pm on Friday.

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George Komiti and Christiana Perriman are experiencing their first international touch tournament. (Image: Zach Fonoti/Pacific Games News Service)

George Komiti, 18, and Christiana Perriman, 17, are among the youngest players at the touch tournament, and are debut players for Samoa.

At her first international event, Perriman said: “This has been an overwhelming experience. It is unreal to have been selected to represent Samoa at the Pacific Games touch tournament.

"I have loved the support shown by my family and [social club] Konnexion Youth.

"God has been so good, and although we did not get the gold [in men's and women's], I am so blessed and very grateful for this opportunity.”

Komiti was also pleased with the "awesome experience" to represent his country.

"Every day is a new day to try a little harder and that is the attitude that my team and I have heading into the mixed tournament. We didn’t get the gold for men’s and women’s open, but all the glory goes back to God for being so good and so faithful to my team and I.”

Solomon Islands captain Simon Tepuke said the mixed tournament was an important step in building the sport ahead of his country hosting the Pacific Games in 2023.

“Touch rugby is not a common sport back home. Not many people in the Solomon Islands are interested in touch or even know what it is.

"Most of our players have never played touch before. In our team the majority are married people with families and are not very athletic, but they expressed interest in the sport and have really enjoyed it.

"We will be hosting the Pacific Games in 2023 and thought now would be a great opportunity to develop a team and hopefully interest more people to join us for the next Pacific Games.”

The women on his team are all-first time, inexperienced players who are still learning and developing skills in touch, and only four members were part of the Pacific Games team at Port Moresby in 2015.

Tepuke said that playing in such a big tournament was  an unforgettable experience for their entire team.

“Our women’s team are more confident knowing that they have the men’s support in the mixed tournament.

"I have seen that our ladies are more comfortable knowing that they have a better sense of direction on the field and are excited for the remaining days of the mixed touch.

"Whether we win or lose, we have now experienced and learned a lot being here at the Pacific Games and we will head home with hearts full, ready to improve and continue to play the sport.”