Day one highlights from the 2007 Pacific Games in Samoa
SUPERB defence from seasoned beach volleyballer Waisale Suka saw Fiji win its match against Solomon Islands two sets to one taking out the first set 21-14 at the Faleata Sports Complex Beach Courts yesterday.
The Suva schoolteacher led by example as he guided his partner Eroni Nainima for a memorable debut at the South Pacific Games in Apia.
"It was team work from the start, we stuck to our game plan and Eroni settled quickly into the game being his first game ever in the SPG arena," Suka said.
With the backing of the small vocal Fiji crowd, the duo worked around the hot Apia climate to defeat their fellow Melanesian counterparts.
"We can't really afford to celebrate but a win in the first game is a boost to our morale and we're now looking forward to our next game," Suka said.
Second set was one of the best sets of the day as Fiji was defeated by the powerful Solomon island pair in a close match of 23-25
The crowd was on their feet as the match went into the final set.
The final set showed two teams going head-to-head to see who would win.
Solomon islanders came in the final set strongly leading 7-3 but the flying Fijians were smart and strong using their powerful, tactical spikes to give them the win 15-7.
"We beat them in our warm up match back at home but this time round they (Solomon Is) gave us a good run," Suka said.
Fiji settled for bronze medal at the 2003 SPG in Suva and the duo will be fighting tooth and nail for a place in the gold medal playoffs.
"We're in a very tough pool with beach volleyball giants Tahiti and New Caledonia so we've got to continue to lift up our game,' the Batiki lad said.
Fiji takes on New Caledonia in their second game today.
The two-time women's SPG gold medalist with the likes of Mereula Meya and Finau Waqa take on Vanuatu n their first match today.
Second win for soccer
Fiji had to overcome dogged resistance from a stout Cook Islands at J.S.Blatter Playing Field in Apia before scoring a 4-0 win that keeps Juan Carlos Buzzetti's team in pole position in Pool A.
But Fiji didn't have it all their own way after an opening 15 minutes that saw Cook Islands put in some crunching tackles in a performance that looked both well-organised and disciplined.
Fiji laboured to penetrate in the opening chapter of an intriguing match with Cook Islands 4-5-1 formation effective in shackling Osea Vakatalesau and Roy Krishna with man-marker Paul Luiz Van Eijk detailed to take care of the fleet-footed Labasa striker.
But the deadlock was broken when Roy Krishna was bundled over on the edge of the penalty area. Referee lencie Fred had no hesitation in awarding the spotkick and tournament top goalscrorer Osea Vakatalesau scored from the penalty spot after 18 minutes.
Matters grew worse for Cook Islands when they were reduced to ten men after Daniel Shepherd was sent off for a second bookable offence on 39 minutes. Fiji's Taniela Waqa blasted a ferocious free kick past the Cook Islands wall from 25m giving Cook's goalkeeper Tony Jamieson no chance.
Cook Islands defended deep inside their own half after the loss of Shepherd and invited Fiji to better their tactical approach.
Fiji - already cruising at 2-0 and only having sustained one real shot at goal by a Cook Islander in the first half - were hardly urgent in going forward but still managed to find gaps with Ba striker Josaia Bukalidi (62') and Malakai Kainihewe with a bullet header at Jamieson's near post in 83 minutes enough to give a satisfying evening for Juan Carlos Buzzetti and his team. Cook Islands coach Tim Jerks was disappointed with the result and felt the score line flattered Fiji. "I would've accepted 2-0 before the match and felt the team played to instructions, they were disciplined and well-organized, I was very proud of them," Jerks said
The shock of the South Pacific Games nearly occurred when Tuvalu held New Caledonia to a respectable 1-0 defeat despite losing their first match 16-0 to Fiji on Match Day 1. Tuvalu coach Toakai Puapua declared himself satisfied with the result. "This was important for us to win back some pride and our team is very happy with the performance and result. The goal came from a mistake by our goalkeeper but otherwise we are happy," Puapua said.
New Caledonia coach Didier Chambaron was less than happy with the result and performance but could point to the tragic death of Marius Mapou's father just two days beforehand - a huge shock to the entire squad.
Five SPG records
The first night of swimming finals at the South Pacific Games in Apia has produced five South Pacific Games records.
Ryan Pini was the stand up for Papua New Guinea winning the 50 metres backstroke and then backing up to win an epic 200 metres freestyle, relegating three times champion Olivier Saminadin, of New Caledonia, to second.
Fiji's Caroline Pickering underlined her top form with a record breaking win in the women's 100 metres freestyle. Her time 57.20.
Rainui Teriipaia continued his dominance the men's 100 metres breaststroke with a record breaking swim of 105.11.
Lara Grangeon of New Caledonia led home a New Caledonia clean sweep in the 400 metres and Grangeon picked up another gold when she anchored New Caledonia to a win in the women's four-by-200-final.