Flying Fijians fight-back to retain Pacific Nation Cup
SUVA, Fiji – June 19, 2018: 12.40pm (RNZI): The Flying Fijians retained regional bragging rights after recovering from a half-time deficit to beat Georgia 37-15 in Suva on Saturday and clinch a fourth straight Pacific Nations Cup rugby title.
Halfback Henry Seniloli scored two first-half tries as the home side raced out to a 10-3 lead inside 17 minutes before the Lelos rallied with tries from Viktor Kolelishvili and
Alexander Todua to take a 15-10 advantage into the break.
Seniloli turned provider for Fiji’s third try as Jale Vatubua ran onto a short pass from the number nine and muscled his way through a handful of defenders to score from close range with just over half an hour to play, as Nemani Nadolo added the extras to put Fiji back in front.
Frank Lomani made an instant impact, scoring a minute after coming off the bench and added a second try in the 78th minute.
Former rugby league star Semi Radradra capped Fiji’s comeback with a try on debut in stoppage time as the home side made it 27 unanswered second-half points to ensure the Pacific Nations Cup stayed in Suva for another year.
Coach John McKee said they let the Georgians used the wind to their advantage in the first half but was pleased with the increased intensity and execution from his players in the second spell.
“I was a little disappointed in our first half. I felt defensively we let the Georgians run at us – we were making our tackles but we were conceding the gain-line,” he said.
“Also we were a little bit sloppy in our execution on the end and probably we created a couple of opportunities but didn’t make the final pass.
“At half-time there was just a bit of a refocus. We really focused on getting a bit more line speed in our defence to put the Georgians on the back foot when they had the ball and I think for us just to calm down a bit on attack -I felt we just need to be a little bit more patient and it paid off for us in the back-end of the game.”
John McKee said it was really important for the team to maintain their position as the number one Pacific nation and said the victory was also welcome boost leading into the 2019 World Cup.
“It’s good to set down a marker against Georgia who the next time we meet them it will be in the World Cup,” he said.
“You want to be going into that with a little bit of confidence but it’s a long between now and the Rugby World Cup in terms of team development and I think our team will be better in the Rugby World Cup as will Georgia.”
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