Fiji Warriors win Pacific Challenge
Suva, Fiji – March 18, 2019: 9.40pm (WORLD RUGBY): The Fiji Warriors swept to their fourth consecutive World Rugby Pacific Challenge title on a day when the victims of Friday’s Christchurch shooting were commemorated with a minute’s silence before play got underway at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.
Having witnessed Junior Japan beat Tonga A 39-10, the crowd were treated to another dazzling display of 15-man rugby from the tournament hosts who ran in four tries in each half to see off Samoa A 48-16.
FIJI WARRIORS 48-16 SAMOA A
Prolific wingers Tira Patterson and Veramu Dikidikilatu added to their growing reputation with a try apiece as Fiji took their overall tally of tries for the tournament to 18 – equalling their return from the previous year.
Dikidikilatu scored his fifth of the tournament on the stroke of half-time but the honour of tournament top-scorer fell to Patterson who added to the five he managed in victories over Tonga A and Junior Japan with another on 57 minutes.
Despite the lopsided scoreline, the home side did not have it all their own way in the match, D’Angelo Leuila kicking Samoa A into a 9-0 lead after 15 minutes with three successful penalties. Leuila went on to score all of his side’s points including a converted try in the second half to finish with 29 points for the tournament, one behind Patterson.
Stung in action, the Warriors response did not come from one of their danger men out wide but loose-head prop, Eroni Mawi. While Caleb Muntz missed the conversion, it was not long before the reigning champions took the lead, inside-centre Tuiraki Samusamuvodre crossing for a try which, this time, Muntz was able to improve.
Captain Frank Lomani darted over for the Warriors’ third on 32 minutes before Dikidikilati got in on the act as the first half drew to a close, Muntz adding the extras for a 24-9 half-time lead.
Just as a fragmented third quarter was drawing to a close, Patterson pounced for his sixth of the tournament. Six minutes later, 2018 skipper Mosese Voka added another and Muntz tagged on the extras to take the score up to 36-9.
Leuila converted his own try to temporarily halt the home side’s momentum but replacements forwards, Peni Naulago and Vere Vugakoto ensured it was the Warriors who had the final word.
TONGA A 10-39 JUNIOR JAPAN
Junior Japan bounced back from their heavy loss to Fiji Warriors in round two to record a comfortable six-try win over Tonga A.
A powerful performance by the pack was complemented by the backs as Junior Japan finished the tournament on 11 points and in second place, just as they had done in 2018.
The manner of Junior Japan’s first try gave an indication of the superiority they would enjoy upfront throughout the match, number eight Kai Yamamoto picking up the ball up from the base of an advancing five-metre scrum and dotting down with ease to the right of the posts. Fly-half Rintaro Maruyama converted the try and added a penalty and with the first quarter over, Junior Japan had a double-digit lead.
A good spell of possession and territory followed for the Tongans and it took a last-ditch tackle from right-wing Siosaia Fifita to deny full-back Alefosio Vahe their first points. Instead, it was Junior Japan who scored next, blindside flanker and skipper Shota Fukui wriggling through three weak tackles just outside the Tonga 22 to run in unopposed.
Just before the break Tonga A were rewarded with a try for second-row Aisea Makasini and Vahe added the extras; however, there was still time for Junior Japan to get their third, outside-centre Tomoki Osada crossing in the last play of the half to make the score 22-5.
Junior Japan only had to wait five minutes before claiming the try bonus point. A rampaging run by Fifita down the right, after another Tongan lineout had been stolen, set up play inside the 22 before fly-half Maruyama found left-winger Owen Ika in acres of space on the other flank with a pinpoint kick for a relatively easy run in.
Local boy Viliame Tuidraki added a fifth for Junior Japan on 62 minutes before Tonga A hit back with three minutes to go, winger Weir Filikitonga supplying the finish after a turnover on their own line resulted in the Pacific Islanders turning defence into attack in an instant.
A desperate clearance kick reached halfway and, just as it looked like Fifita would mop up the danger, the ball bounced awkwardly and replacement Leonaitasi Feke picked up possession before popping the ball up to the onrushing Filikitonga who cruised home from 50 metres.
However, the match finished as it started, with the Japanese forwards on top, and when a driven lineout was illegally brought to ground, referee Kaveni Talemaivavalagi was left with no option but to finish the match with the award of a penalty try.
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