The Olympic champions finished top of their pool at last weekend’s Sydney tournament, including wins over Samoa and New Zealand.But their title hopes were ended with a 24-7 defeat by the USA in the Cup quarter final, before the All Blacks Sevens cruised to a 31-7 victory in the playoff for fifth place.Gareth Baber said they weren’t good enough when it mattered, with kick-offs an area that needs some work.”Some of the processes fell down for us and we questioned ourselves and as a group in terms of when the pressure comes on ensuring that you stick to a plan, you execute that plan and we didn’t do that,” he said.”It’s a tough environment, especially when you’re not getting the results or performances you want and you’ve got to be brave enough as a group of players and our staff as well that you’re willing to take the criticism, learn from it and move forward and that’s certainly been the emphasis of this week.”Fiji play Wales and Spain first up in Hamilton this afternoon before closing out pool play against an Australian side buoyed by their victory on home soil last weekend.The Pacific Island side prevailed when the teams last met in Dubai two months ago and Gareth Baber is backing his players to rediscover their winning touch.”Australia have been there and thereabouts and then suddenly put in the performance of their year or the last few years to top it in Sydney in a home tournament, which is great for them.””And we’re doing something similar – we’re working to plans and, as I said in fairness to (their coach) Andy and the Australian team, I think they were very good for that win in Sydney and it’s going to be a tough one for us in our pool but we’ve played them several times over the last few years and we tended to have the drop on them so I’ll be looking to do the same again this weekend,” Baber said.Samoa insist they’re on the right path despite some underwhelming recent result in the World Series.The Manu missed out on the Cup quarter finals in Sydney last weekend after being thrashed 31-5 by Fiji and 31-0 by New Zealand in pool play, while they ended the weekend with a five point loss to Wales.But David Afamasaga, who scored his first World Series try in the win over Russia, believes they’re not as far off the pace as results may suggest.”The scoreline doesn’t reflect the way we play. I think we’re playing a pretty good brand of footy at the moment but just our little mistakes that we’re making are letting other teams in. I think we’re just there, we’re nearly there but I think we’re coming up,” he said.Samoa will face Kenya, the United States and Canada in pool play at the inaugural Hamilton Sevens today.Afamasaga said they have a very good chance of making the knockout rounds this weekend if they get their “head-space” right.”Just being very decisive, not being in two minds and once you make a decision just go for it. So that’s what we’ve been working on.”Papua New Guinea face another daunting start against World Series champions South Africa and England in pool play.The Pacific minnows were thrashed 50-0 by the Blitz Boks in their opening match in Sydney last weekend before a 35-5 against the English.The Pukpuks coach Dougie Guise could be forgiven for cursing their bad luck but said it’s all valuable preparation for the World Series qualifier in Hong Kong in April.”We really want to qualify this year to get core team status (and the chance to play every tournament on the World Series).””We really want to push forward in winning the qualifying tournament there to get on the circuit. It’s a good thing to challenge the best to try to be the best so I’m really happy that they’ve given us both the number one and two seeds – the World Series champions and the runners up from last year – so yeah (we’re) really happy with that,” Guise said.PNG will also face Russia in their final pool game.
Manchester: Pep Guardiola was relieved Manchester City found their rhythm in time to close the gap on Premier League leaders Liverpool to three points as Raheem Sterling inspired a 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Saturday.Guardiola’s side survived a tame opening period as second half goals from Sterling, David Silva and Ilkay Gundogan put Villa to the sword. City’s second successive league victory lifted them above Leicester into second place and put pressure on Liverpool to beat Tottenham in Sunday’s clash at Anfield.Fernandinho was dismissed after earning a second booking when the City star tugged at Keinan Davis in the 87th minute.Guardiola conceded the champions had been below their best at the start, but he was delighted with the way they took control after the interval.”Aston Villa played very well in the first half and we played not so good. They are newly-promoted and played with real spirit, attacking the channels well,” Guardiola said.”But the second half, I don’t know if we played good because we scored early or it was because we played differently, but we won. It was a special second half, we were another level.”PEP 💬 We played good for 45 minutes, but not the other one. Respect and credit to Aston Villa.We have to be aggressive with the ball. The only person in the first half who was aggressive was @sterling7. In the second half it happened.🔵 #MCIAVL #ManCity pic.twitter.com/AFLKS0GxJp— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 26, 2019 City were upset by Wolves in their last league fixture at the Etihad Stadium, but Guardiola had never lost back-to-back home league games as a manager and Sterling was key to ensuring that impressive record wasn’t ruined.Sterling’s latest virtuoso display came just days after his second hat-trick of the campaign in City’s Champions League demolition of Atalanta.The England winger has made a convincing case to be regarded as genuine superstar over the last 18 months and Villa had no answer to his intelligent movement, sublime skills and predatory finishing.City have scored 32 league goals this season, 11 more than Liverpool, and their firepower was clear to see as they saw off Villa with their record scorer Sergio Aguero on the bench.Gabriel Jesus made consecutive Premier League starts for the first time since December, but he squandered a chance to put City ahead when he dragged his close-range shot wide from Sterling’s pass.No fewer than 11 City stars have suffered injuries this season, with Oleksandr Zinchenko and Rodri the latest to be sidelined for several weeks.ROUTE ONE CITYGuardiola admitted he was “a little bit concerned” about how City would cope, yet with Sterling in his side, anything is possible.Sterling appealed for a penalty when his shot cannoned off Bjorn Engels’ arm, then glanced a header just wide.John Stones gifted possession to Villa and Douglas Luiz almost took advantage when he tangled with City keeper Ederson, who narrowly avoided conceding a penalty in the melee.Despite their lack of rhythm in the first half, City should have been ahead at the break when Sterling teed up Silva, only for the Spanish midfielder to shoot inches wide of the far post.Usually firmly dedicated to Guardiola’s passing principles, City finally broke Villa’s stubborn resistence with a goal straight from the route one handbook.A huge punt forward by Ederson was flicked on by Jesus into the path of the unmarked Sterling, who took one touch before shooting under Tom Heaton for his 13th goal in 14 appearances in all competitions this term.City should have doubled their lead when Engels gave the ball away to Sterling and he picked out Jesus, but the Brazilian’s shot was brilliantly cleared off the line by Tyrone Mings.It made no difference as Guardiola’s side were in the groove and they killed off Villa with two goals in five minutes.In the 65th minute, Kevin De Bruyne swung in a cross that Silva flicked into the net despite a long VAR review followed to check for offside against Sterling.Gundogan put the result beyond doubt in the 70th minute with a clinical finish after Villa failed to clear. Aston Villafootballmanchester cityPep Guardiola First Published: October 26, 2019, 10:12 PM IST Get the best of News18 delivered to your inbox – subscribe to News18 Daybreak. Follow News18.com on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Telegram, TikTok and on YouTube, and stay in the know with what’s happening in the world around you – in real time.