Upolu Samoa 3 Tautahi Gold 11
Tautahi Gold became the first Tongan side to lift the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup title with an 11-3 defeat of defending champions Upolu Samoa in front of a near capacity crowd at Apia Park on Friday, ending Samoan dominance of the silverware in the process.
The final was played in true Pacific style, ruthless in the forwards and unforgiving in the rucks and mauls with plenty of spot tackles, underneath clear skies with temperatures hitting 30 degrees, and completed an impressive turnaround for Tautahi Gold.
Bottom of the standings a year ago, Tautahi Gold turned the tables on the defending champions, avenging their 26-10 loss at the same venue only seven days earlier in the final round robin matches with flanker Nili Latu again catching the eye with another impressive and inspiring display.
Tonga’s captain at Rugby World Cup 2007 was the first to the breakdown creating havoc and forcing a constant stream of turnovers as Upolu Samoa were frustrated into making errors in a match which saw only one try, through man of the match Sitaleki Lu’au in the sixth minute for Tautahi Gold.
Playing from the heart
Lu’ua, the leading try scorer in the competition, had already missed a penalty attempt before the full back opened the scoring, captain Fangatapu ‘Apikotoa missing the conversion before his opposite number Roger Warren kicked a penalty for Upolu to narrow the deficit to 5-3.
Warren missed a chance to give Upolu the lead in the 24th minute and instead it was Tautahi who increased their advantage when ‘Apikotoa slotted a drop goal between the posts just past the half hour. The margin could have been worse for Upolu at the break with the fly half missing a penalty and drop goal attempt.
Another penalty attempt from Warren, who had scored 16 points in Upolu’s victory last weekend, missed the target 10 minutes into the second half and it was left to Lu’ua to stretch Tautahi’s advantage beyond a converted try with a penalty on the hour mark.
Lu’ua did miss with another penalty attempt a few minutes later, but Tautahi Gold were not to be denied the chance to add their name to the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup honour roll after inaugural champions Savai’i Samoa in 2006 and Upolu Samoa last year.
“We have the game plan, but unlike last week we didn’t put it into practice. Our players lacked today what Tautahi brought to the field—they played from their heart and made things happen,” admitted a disappointed Upolu Samoa head coach Selefuti Patu afterwards.
UPOLU SAMOA: 1. Evile Telea 2. Muliufi Salanoa (capt) 3. Taligatuli Moala 4. Tui Fitiao 5. Ruperake Petaia 6. Ola Pipili 7. Alapasa Cordtz 8. Filipo Levi 9. Notise Tauafao 10. Roger Warren 11. Morgan Salesa 12. Samasoni Moala 13. Gasolo Salima 14. David Lemi 15. Pale Toelupe.
Replacements: 16: Taleni Toloa 17. Solomona Tavita 18. Chad Slade 19. Sirovai Sila 20. Dominic Gabriel 21. Pulemalie Sopo 22. Joyner Key.
TAUTAHI GOLD: 1. Makoni Finau 2. Feki Moala 3. Sione Maama 4. Petelo Pifeleti 5. Taukolo Tu’akoi 6. Lisala Uafi 7. ‘Otenili Latu 8. Aleki Taka 9. Soane Havea 10. Fangatapu ‘Apikotoa (capt) 11. Samisone Pone 12. Kaiongo Tupou 13. Sione Heimule Pangai 14. 'Vea Pauga 15. Sitaleki Lu’au.
Replacements: 16. Soane Ledger 17. Viliami Kupu 18. ‘Erwin Vaefoou 19. Sione Niu Tonga 20. Atenaisa Fakaosi 21. Leakona Tovi 22. Semisi Motuapuaka.
Try: Lu'ua; Penalty goal: Lu'ua; Drop goal: ‘Apikotoa
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