By Scott Houston
The group stage of the team events at the Mini Pacific Games in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands concluded on Thursday 24th September 2009.
It was a case of the usual forces in the South Pacific asserting their dominance on proceedings.
However there was one surprise packet.
In Group A of the Women’s Team event, reigning South Pacific Champions Vanuatu, demolished all before them going undefeated throughout.
In fact they were so dominant they only surrendered one individual contest in their three matches. They defeated New Caledonia nine-nil, Kiribati nine-nil, and Tonga eight-one.
Comprising Priscila Tommy, Anolyn Lulu, Liopa Santhy and Stephanie Qwea; it is a squad that will prove hard to stop. Now, they march into the semi finals full of confidence.
Providing the surprise of the tournament thus far by gaining the runner up position in Group A was Kiribati.
Kiribati is a nation of note in the South Pacific with table tennis arguably being their national sport. The reason that booking their place in the semi finals has been a surprise is that they have done so with only two players for the duration of proceedings.
Unfortunate circumstances saw their number three and number four players having to withdraw at the very last moment; this has not deterred their efforts and in recoding a five-four victory over New Caledonia and a six-three victory over Tonga assured their semi final berth.
In Group B Fiji emerged as group winners but it was not without a fight from a young Tahiti-Nui outfit. In a tense duel lasting over three and a half hours Fiji emerged with a five-four victory.
Shriti Jeet held her nerve to provide the crucial win in the ninth and deciding rubber to ensure victory. The victory over Tahiti-Nui meant that Fiji kept a clean sheet as they had also accounted for the Cook Islands and the Solomon Islands both to the tune of eight-one.
They will be looking to go all the way in this competition and they will be able to take confidence into the semi finals after coming through under pressure today.
Tahiti-Nui came away as group runner-up to book their place in the semi final as they had only one reverse against Fiji, previously defeated the Cook Islands six-three and the Solomon Islands eight-one. Even though they are fielding a young team, they are not without a chance in this competition.
The sudden death semi finals will see Vanuatu take on Tahiti-Nui and Fiji aiming to claim the other final berth against Kiribati.
In Group A of the Men’s Team event Fiji has been in red-hot form.
They have remained undefeated throughout without any real scares along the way. In the final pool match they accounted for Vanuatu seven-two to secure the top place in the group. Prior to this they had also recorded one-sided victories against Kiribati nine-nil, Tonga nine-nil, and the Cook Islands eight-one.
Certainly, they will enter the knock-out semi finals arguably as the favourite to claim the title.
Only One Reverse
Vanuatu’s only reverse came at the hands of Fiji, and consequently they have also booked their semi final place.
In their other three pool matches they did not receive much resistance by winning against Kiribati eight-one, Tonga nine-nil, and Cook Islands nine-nil.
The Vanuatu team is lead by the much travelled young gun Yoshua Shing and they are a team capable of turning on a string of spectacular matches on their day. Time will tell if they can realise their potential as they enter the semi finals as the dark horse.
In Pool B, Tahiti-Nui came out on top as they remained undefeated throughout; their closest match came against their also French-speaking counterparts from New Caledonia where they recorded a five-four victory in a solid team performance.
In their other matches they had not dropped a single individual match, defeating all of the Solomon Islands, Samoa, and American Samoa to the tune of nine-nil.
New Caledonia had also recorded the same score lines against the other three nations in their pool and dually booked their place in the semi finals. New Caledonia are playing without their number one player and reigning South Pacific Men’s Singles Champion Laurent Sens in this competition, however they are being led by a young player who is very much on the rise; the 15 year old Stephane Gilabert.
He was part of Team Oceania at the 2008 World Cadet Challenge and is disappointingly one month too old to qualify again for the team this year. He is yet to surrender a match in the tournament thus far and is one who could give the Men’s Singles crown a shake at the end of next week.
The semi finals will see Fiji start as favourite against New Caledonia whilst Tahiti-Nui will take on Vanuatu.
The teams finishing outside the top two places in their respective groups of both the men’s and women’s pools will playoff for the minor places in what will still provide some exciting table tennis as they fight for their countries.
However, for the semi finalist’s glory awaits as gold medals and national pride is at stake.
Last Modified on 30/09/2009 05:42