Manu Samoa has won the 2022 Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) after beating Fiji in a nail-biting 23- 20 in the last round of games at Churchill Park in Lautoka on Saturday.
The whole game could be summed up in the final ten minutes of the second half, where Fijian fans were screaming and cheering “go Fiji go” with horns being blown and the blue Fijian flags waving everywhere.
For the last ten minutes, the Samoans survived wave after wave of mounting Fijian attacks, with the hosts spreading the ball in all directions looking for a chink in Samoan defence, but there was no way through.
Samoa grabbed the first points of the game with a penalty but it was all Fiji after that. Fiji ran in two converted tries to number eight Albert Tuisue and half-back Frank Lomani. This was followed by a Ben Volavola penalty for Fiji to lead 17 – 3 at halftime.
The Samoans exploded after the break and managed to turn offence into points.
Samoan hooker Ray Niuia scored two converted tries, while two penalties by Rodney Iona had the visitors leading 23-20 with ten minutes to go.
Samoa survived the relentless Fiji attack. With final whistle just moments away, Fiji had the opportunity to draw level by kicking the penalty but the lineout option was taken as the team wanted a win.
But an overthrow by replacement hooker Tevita Ikanivere from the line-out saw the Samoan defenders pouncing on the ball and kicking it out to end the game.
Samoa Head Coach Seilala Mapusua and captain Michael Alaalatoa could not hide their excitement during the post-match press conference, their team secured a much-deserved win.
“Winning against Fiji in Fiji is a special experience, we knew that we will be playing against not only the Fiji team but against all of Fiji, we dedicate this win to all our families and all the people of Samoa,” Mapusua said.
The last time Samoa beat Fiji was in 2014 at the National Stadium in Suva during the Pacific Nations Cup. If Fiji would have won, Australia A would have been declared winners.
Australia A finish second
Australia A beat Tonga 39-22 in an exciting affair where the Tongans tried their best to finish with one win from the tournament.
Tongan hooker Samiuela Moli got the friendly islanders to a dream start with an unconverted try after two minutes following a driving maul from a lineout ten meters out from the tryline.
Four minutes later Tonga was penalised inside their own half and Australian captain Ryan Lonergan kicked a three pointer.
The scorching Lautoka midday heat had players, referee and assistant referees going for a 30 seconds water break after every ten minutes.
Australia A didn’t let the heat derail them from their game plan as they got the ball into Tongan territory and applied the pressure. Their efforts were rewarded in the 12th minute with a try to Filipo Daugunu for an 8-5 lead.
Lonergan extended the Aussies lead with his second penalty in the 37th minute.
However, Tonga got back into the match straight after the kick off with William Havili converting a penalty after Australia was penalised for an infringement at the breakdown.
While many thought Australia would struggle in the Lautoka heat, they got another try on the stroke of halftime with a set-piece try to number eight Langi Gleeson and led 18-8 going into the break.
The Australians hit the ground running again just five minutes into the second spell with Hamish Stewart diving under the sticks.
The Tongans spirit was high as their prime minister watched from the stands, and they hit back with a second try to hooker Moli.
With 21 minutes remaining Australia struck again with number eight Gleeson setting up Daugunu for his second.
Replacement Tongan hooker Jay Fonokalafi dived over from a driving maul in the 69th minute to take the scores to 32-22 in favour of Australia. In the 73rd minute James Tuttle scored another try sealing the game.
Australia A captain Ryan Lonergan said he was proud of his team’s efforts and bouncing back from their loss in the first round.
“Even though we only had a week to prepare, the way the boys dug in, I am really proud of the group and how we have come together over the last three weeks,” he said.
Tonga captain Halaleva Fifita says the PNC has been a good learning ground for the side as they head to Australia for the World Cup qualifiers.
“It has been a great four weeks, tough for the boys but at the same time, it was a great learning for us. There are things that we have learnt from this campaign, moving on for the qualifiers next week,” he said.