|Flanker Malakai Ravulo powers his way through the Samoa defense. Photo - Kenji Demura |
Samoa remain the only unbeaten side in this year’s IRB Pacific Nations Cup following a 29-26 win over Fiji at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground on Sunday.
Samoa captain David Lemi led by example crossing twice as Stephen Betham’s team put themselves in a position to clinch the title next week if they beat Japan at the same venue.
“Both teams gave it their all today,” said coach Betham. “The last few minutes were very competitive as Fiji never gave up, so I am very proud of my players.”
Lemi agreed with his coach adding: “Hopefully we can use this as a base and raise our level for next week’s game Japan.”
The hosts will enter Round 3 looking to end the tournament on a high after falling to their second straight defeat, a 24-20 loss to Tonga.
“We made some elementary errors at crucial times in the game,” said Japan coach Eddie Jones. “We gave them some ridiculously easy points and created enough opportunities to win the game.”
Played under perfect conditions in the nation’s capital, Samoa and Fiji combined for six tries in the opening game of the doubleheader.
Following an early exchange of penalties between Setareki Koroilagilagi and his Samoa counterpart Ki Anufe, Fiji got the try fest going with Nemia Kenatale going over in the 10th minute as the Fijians launched a counter-attack from deep in their own half.
Koroilagilagi added the extras as Fiji went 10-3 up.
A second exchange of penalties followed before two scintillating tries in the space of two minutes saw Samoa take the lead.
Ben Masoe scored the first in the 27th minute following a well-judged kick from Lemi, before Paul Williams, Paul Perez and Faatoina Autagavaia combined to put Lemi away in the corner as Samoa went into the break leading 18-13.
The second half saw both sides look to play expansive rugby though handling errors from both teams meant it wasn’t until the 50th minute that Lemi extended his side’s lead.
A third exchange of penalties followed before Netani Talei’s try in the 73rd minute closed the gap to five.
Anufe’s fourth penalty of the day secured the win but Tuapati Talemaitoga’s late try ensured the Fijians left Tokyo with a bonus point.
“We played some good rugby for the first 20 minutes, but then made too many unforced errors,” rued Fiji coach Inoke Male.
However most pleasing for Male will be the performance of the Fijian scrum which outmuscled and out-shoved the much vaunted Samoa pack all afternoon long.
To win the PNC Fiji must now beat Tonga on 23 June and hope Japan can overcome the powerful Samoans. Article courtesy of oceaniarugby.com. View full match replay here.