Fiji Retains 2016 Pacific Nations Cup

Spread the love

Fiji has retained the Pacific Nations Cup for the second year in-a-row, as they had to come from behind [for the second week in a row] to beat Samoa 26-16. Scoring 16 unanswered points in the second half, the Fijian team had to pull all their ‘tricks out of the bag’ with Seremaia Bai; who was playing his last Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) game, kicking six from six to secure the title on home soil.

The contributions were many, as Bai had a wonderful game and Sunia Koto and Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne grabbing crucial tries. The 5,000 fans who turned up to watch the game at Fiji’s ANZ National Stadium were treated to some quality, physical Pacific-style rugby which kept them on their toes, especially the second half when the hosts came to life.

The match also had a reward of qualification to the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019. Oceania qualification was on the line and Fiji are now assured of a place, as the winner of the PNC tournament automatically earns their place and the other two sides will have to face-off again in 2017, for their opportunity. Samoa and Tonga will battle for second spot, and important World Rugby rankings next weekend, in the final match of the PNC.

Fiji Retains Pacific Nations Cup

The Pacific showdown started off in style, as Samoa mounted attacks on the hosts line but from a loose ball, former World Sevens ‘Player Of The Year’ Samisoni Viriviri pounced on it and kicked the ball ‘soccer style’ back up to the Samoans 22 metre line. In their own territory, the Samoans were penalized for not releasing the ball and Seremaia Bai gave Fiji the lead from the early penalty. Samoa replied straight away with a penalty to their Sunwolves Super Rugby kingpin Tusi Pisi to square the scores at 3-3.

Fiji were caught off-guard by the Samoan’s forward play, and were rewarded with another penalty to Pisi to extend the Samoans lead to 3-6. Ill-discipline started to creep into the Fijians game and Waisea Nayacalevu was sent to the bin after continuous infringement around the ruck. Pisi extended the visitors lead to 3-9 and they held a composure that the home side could have used.

Manu Samoa capitalized on Fiji’s weakness in the scrum and lineouts, as they continued to make in-roads through the Fijian line and from a pending lineout, Samoa drove through the corner with Hurricanes hooker Motu Matu’u scoring in the corner in a massive play. Converted by Pisi, that extended Samoa’s lead to 3-16.

Back to 15 players, Fijian continue ramming at the Samoan’s line in the final minute of the half and from a short arm penalty from a a scrum, Fiji went close to the line through Leone Nakarawa and from the quick recycle, Sunia Koto took three Samoan defenders with him and scored Fiji’s first try. A conversion from Bai saw the Samoans leave the field at halftime with a slender lead 10-16.

Samoa with the halftime advantage

Fiji’s first half performance was like their match against Tonga a week earlier, where they struggled in the forward play, particularly in the scrums and lineouts. Players again losing the ball carelessly or turnovers made by Alafoti Faosiliva and Fafili Levave, who with Matu’u, Pisi and the effective Rey Lee-Lo, were the standout men for Samoa in the first spell.

The hosts were straight into their ‘attack mode’ from the restart and Samoa were penalized for playing the ball on the deck. From the subsequent penalty, Bai reduced the deficit to three points. Fiji was all over the Samoan scrum in the second half, winning two back-to-back tight-heads as replacement Samoa prop Sam Aiono continued to struggle against the Fiji front row, and from the impending penalty Bai leveled the score 16-all.

The inclusion of Ben Volavola and Nemia Soqeta from the bench ‘ignited Fiji’ as they made their way up to the Samoan teams line but infringements and handling errors let the home side down. it was a close match by now, and when the visitors were penalised again, Bai put the hosts in front 19-16 in a kicking performance that rugby ‘purists’ would appreciate.

Fiji wrapped up the game in style, as Patrick Osborne (pictured) who seemed to be struggling all day to adjust to the International game, turned hero when he scored Fiji’s last try to ‘put the game to bed’ for Fiji. Like last weekend, they had to come from behind to seal the game 26-16 as the Samoans were held scoreless in the second half by a resilient Fiji side that knew ‘what to bring out of the bag’ when needed.

Not starting is their weakness, but the match completion is a positive element of their game.

While Fiji may have wrapped up another Pacific Nations Cup title, adding that to the HSBC Sevens Series title, but there is still a hell of a lot to do. Playing a game of two halves in successive matches will be a concern. Improving the scrums and lineouts will be on their mind next week, as they try to dethrone the traveling International Georgian side who are undefeated on their South Sea’s tour.

The win will please many, no doubt. The sight of Bai kicking so many points only underlines to old rugby law–take the points on offer. Samoa presented opportunity; and will be waking this morning knowing it ‘slipped through the fingers’ but Fiji must take this fighting-style of match into more games. Happily for them, they can now plan on taking a trip to Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

Samoa:

15. Albert Nikoro 14. Fa’atoaina Autagavaia 13. Rey Lee-Lo 12. Failaga Afamasaga 11. David Lemi 10. Tusi Pisi 9. Dwayne Polataivao 8. Alofoti Faosiliva 7. Greg Foe 6. Fafili Levave 5. Teofili Paulo 4. Fa’atiga Lemalu 3. James Johnston 2. Motu Matu’u 1. Sakaria Taulofo

Replacements: 16. Ma’atulimanu Leitaua 17. Sam Aiono 18. Census Johnston 19. Jeff Lepa 20. TJ Ioane 21. Pelefofoga Cowley 22. Patrick Fa’apale 23. Mala Falaniko

Fiji

15. Samisoni Viriviri 14. Waisea Nayacalevu 13. Vereniki Goneva 12. Eroni Vasiteri 11. Patrick Osborne 10. Seremaia Bai. 9. Henry Seniloli 8. Eremasi Radrodro 7. Naulia Dawai 6. Leone Nakarawa 5. Api Ratuniyarawa 4. Tevita Cavubati 3. Leeroy Atalifo 2. Sunia Koto 1. Campese Ma’afu

Replacements: 16. Viliame Veikoso 17. Peni Ravai 18. Taniela Koroi 19. Nemia Soqeta 20. Mosese Voka 21. Serupepeli Vularika 22. Ben Volavola 23. Benito Masilevu.

________________________________________________________________

Last Word On Sports congratulates Fiji on their qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup and will complete our Pacific Nations Cup coverage with Samoa hosting Tonga in Apia, June 25.

“Main photo credit”