The New Zealand Maori scraped home to a 11-7 win over the Flying Fijians at a heavily water logged Churchill Park on
Fiji led 7-3 at half-time after rampaging centre Sireli Naqelevuki had charged down a kick on the Maori try line to dot down the lone try for the national side.
After the break, the visitors came back to bag the match through former All Black lock Jason Eaton who scored from a Fiji line-out error before replacement fly-half Callum Bruce nailed a late penalty.
Fullback Taniela Rawaqa missed three crucial kicks at goal which could have seen Fiji edge home after they had taken the visitors to the wire.
Ilivasi Tabua (Fiji coach):
“Though the scoreline was not to our advantage, I was happy with the boys’ overall performance today. I thought they played well but I believe the boys can still do better. We tried to take points when they were offered but unfortunately we missed three crucial kicks.
“Our goal is to improve our standing from last year and the initial focus of our preparation was to win both our home games. Obviously this did not happen. But we have to move on and prepare for Japan and the other two remaining matches and try to minimise our mistakes.”
Mosese Rauluni (Fiji captain):
“I am proud of the boys although we lost. We had the game, we had possession and territory but our tactical decision was not good and I believe this cost us the game. But it’s behind us now and we have to move on to Japan. Although I will not be accompanying the team to Japan I know that they will give their best. I wish them all the very best and I hope to meet them when they come over to Australia. If they require my services, I will certainly step in and help out.”
Donny Stevenson (NZ Maori coach):
“It’s a relief to come our as winners. I must admit I did not think it was possible even when it was a minute from full-time and Fiji had possession and were charging at us. But it was a turn-over at the end. We knew Fiji would be a tough opponent. Each time we thought we had contained them they would come back at us. There were some impressive and unexpected breaks by their wingers and I believe if we had given them space Fiji would have won.”