More than 300 spectators, a team of 15 ball boys and ball girls and a para hockey exhibition match were all signs that Vanuatu is welcoming hockey as a major sport.
And the support for the hockey team in the Oceania nation was repaid by the host team as the Vanuatu men's team pulled off a remarkable double victory over Fiji to win the men's event and secure a place in the Hockey Series Finals taking place next year. Vanuatu women were unlucky not to make it a double for the host nation as they narrowly lost to Fiji.
Host nation Vanuatu and the team ranked highest in both the men's and women's competition – Fiji – have been the standout teams at the men's and women's Hockey Series competitions in Port Vila, Vanuatu.
In the women's competition, Vanuatu (World Ranking:74) got off to a flying start with a 9-0 win over Tonga (WR:65) and a 4-2 win over the Solomon Islands (WR: 63). Fiji (WR:59) for their part, put 13 goals past Tonga and beat the Solomon Islands 8-1. This meant there was a lot at stake in the fifth match as Fiji faced Vanuatu. Tailah Ah Yuk played a captain's role as she gave her side the lead within two minutes and this set the Fiji side on the trail of a comprehensive 5-0 victory.
The final day of action saw Fiji confirm their status as tournament leaders when they beat Vanuatu again, this time by a narrow 3-2 margin. The top ranked teams rushed to a 3-0 lead but Vanuatu showed their fighting spirit as they brought the game back to 3-2 and set up a nail-biting final few minutes. Fiji held on but Vanuatu pushed all the way.
In the bronze medal game, Solomon Islands won 4-1 against Tonga, with Hilda Kabini showing good form with two goals.
Fiji's Tiara Dutta was overall leading goalscorer with nine goals in total, including the opening goal in the final.
In the men's competition, it was again Fiji (WR:57) and Vanuatu (WR:64) who were chasing the qualification spot to one of the three Hockey Series Open events.
Vanutau beat the Solomon Islands (WR:88) 8-3 while Fiji put 14 goals past Tonga (WR:72). In the crunch game in the round robin matches, Vanuatu played a tactically astute game to beat Fiji in a fiercely contested 7-5 thriller. This was the first time Vanuatu have ever beaten Fiji in any competition format.
In the final round of matches, Solomon Islands beat Tonga to take bronze, while Vanuatu continued to delight home fans with a 6-4 win over Fiji to take first place and seal qualification to the next stage of the Hockey Series competition.
Among the goal scorers were captain Ben Sam and Hiro Namu, who both scored two goals. Edmo Iasi also scored a goal to take him to third highest goal scorer in the competition.
The top scorer was Fiji's Krristofer Mock, who scored 14 throughout the tournament and three goals in the final.
The Hockey Series continues with a women's event in Vilnius, Lithuania on 21-26 August. For further information on the Hockey Series click here.