Fiji Retains Pacific Nation Cup with Tonga Qualifying Second for RWC 2019

Last Word on Rugby, by Jovilisi Waqa.

They came, they saw, they conquered in style as Fiji retains Pacific Nations Cup in Apia, Samoa. It was a very entertaining game in front of a vocal crowd that turned up to witness Fiji turn on the after burners to blitz the hosts away. Fiji walloped the helpless hosts 38-16 with only the boot of Tusi Pisi keeping them in the game.

It was a game eagerly watched by the people of Tonga, as they were relying on the results to go their way. A Fiji win and it would mean an early qualification; while a win for Samoa a long run at the repecharge qualification. Fortunately for the ʻIkale Tahi’ can plan ahead, after Fiji reigned supreme.

Fiji will go to Pool C with Australia, Wales and Georgia while Tonga heads to Pool D with England, Argentina and France for the 2019 Japan Rugby World Cup.

Fiji Retains Pacific Nations Cup

It has been a remarkable June/July Tests Window for Fiji as they have won four of their five tests. Their only loss was to Australia before pipping Scotland and Italy at home. They wrapped that up with away wins to Tonga and Samoa.

Head Coach John McKee rotated all his players through the test series to add depth to the side. With Jale Vatubua excelling but with more to work on at inside center. Ben Volavola had an outstanding outing in the test window. Credit to Morgan Turinui and the coaches at Melbourne Rebels. Not only he kicked well but his defensive work was by far his best. He will only grow more as he plays more now that North Harbour has signed him for the Miter Cup.

Fiji scored the tries while Samoa kicked the penalties that was the story of the opening half. Tusi Pisi kept the Samoans in the game with his boots nailing three penalties and missing three. David Lemi outran Vereniki Goneva on the tramline from Kahn Fotuali’i’s bullet pass to score their only try.

On the other hand, Fiji’s points in the opening half came through halfback Henry Seniloli who was on fire. He was everywhere in defense, attack and support play with Timoci Nagusa the provider with Vatubua and Goneva. They went to the breather with Fiji trailing 14-16 Samoa. Indiscipline was the only problem for Fiji at the ruck in the first half, the question was ‘could they rectify that?’

From the restart Fiji was back hassling the Samoans. Two minutes in it was Nagusa again down the tramline with an inside pass to Seniloli for his hatrick at Apia Park. The Fijians never looked back and annihilated any thought of a comeback from Alama Ieremia’s men. Jale Vatubua was again crossing over in the corner after impressive run from the backs for a 28-16 lead.

Henry Seniloli and Ben Volavola the Toast of Fiji Rugby

Ben ‘Ben 10’ Volavola as the masses are referring to him now nailed a long range penalty near halfway to extend Fijis lead. Api Ratuniyarawa scored the final try after a good midfield burst from replacement center Eroni Vasiteri. Volavola nailed the conversion to keep his perfect record of the day five from five. Final score 38-16.

The win has given Fiji their third Pacific Nations Cup. They were the consistent and most improved Pacific Nation side by far this past year. They continue to grow from strength to strength. The Italians tested their scrum, the Scots their lineout, the island sides their resolve but they withstood it all.

PNC 2017: The Talking Points

Many talking points could be brought to the lime light after another Fiji retains Pacific Nations Cup. Many new boys stood out. For Samoa, it would be Keiron Fonotia. The former Crusader was outstanding in his debut season – even though he is 29.

Tonga will credit Sonetane Takulua for their great outing in the series. He linked and the backs and forwards well with good judgments which kept the opposition guessing. His goal kicking too was impressive as Pisi and Volavola.

Ben Volavola, Leone Nakarawa and Timoci Nagusa were the standouts for the Fijians. They were everywhere creating, defendind, supporting and kicking their team to victory. Fullback Nagusa is in his 30’s but like a fine wine he excels with age. Nakarawa is a threat any time he takes the field, with Volavola coming of age.

What Next For Pacifica Rugby?

The November tour itinerary is the next International fixture for Pacifica Rugby. Fiji will travel to Dublin, for an International match against Ireland – November 19. As well, Samoa balance that with their repechage qualification process.

The Samoans, who finished a point behind Tonga in the standings across the two competitions, must now wait to learn the identity of the European team they will face next year to determine the Play-off Winner qualifier in Pool A.

If Samoa fail to take that route – by beating the winner of Czech Republic or Portugal versus the second-place team in the 2018 Rugby Europe Championship (excluding Georgia, who have already qualified) – they will be pitched into the global repechage tournament.

Oceania Sevens will be in Suva as teams fight for two spots in the Men’s competition to travel to San Francisco for the Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018. They will join Australia, Fiji, New Zealand and Samoa.

On the other hand, the Women have one spot left to fill, to join Fiji, New Zealand and Australia at the tournament.