Fiji defeat Samoa and Tonga still searching for a win at Pacific Nations Cup

The Flying Fijians putting in some defense work against Manu Samoa at Apia Park on Saturday. 29 July 2023 Photo: Piui Simi/Samoa Observer

The Flying Fijians have secured their second win in the Pacific Nations Cup series after they defeated Manu Samoa 33-19 at Apia Park in Samoa on Saturday afternoon.

In the process the Fijians also displaced Samoa at the number 10 spot in the world rugby rankings.

Out in Japan, the ‘Ikale Tahi remained winless as they suffered their second defeat on the road, going down 21-16 to their hosts.

In Apia a strong first half saw Fiji lead 30-5 at half-time before Samoa fought back with 14 points in the second half.

Fiji hooker Tevita Ikanivere claimed two tries in the first 40 minutes, his first coming from a quick tap following a penalty.

Fijian Drua centre Iosefo Masi, pairing with captain Semi Radradra in midfield, scored his first Test try after he received a short pass from Radradra metres from the Samoan tryline to run in.

Winger Selesitino Ravataumada finished off a good Fijian attack and flyhalf Caleb Muntz kicked two penalties and two conversions as Fiji finished the first half strongly.

Samoan flyhalf Christian Leali’iafano was the lone points scorer for the home side in the first half, and he also missed two attempted penalty kicks.

Manu Samoa turned up the heat in the second spell and scored two tries, one to captain Fritz Lee, and Muntz added a penalty for Fiji.

As the Samoans attacked hard with their big forwards leading the charges, Fiji defended desperately and hung on to win.

Fijian captain Radradra congratulated his team and thanked the Samoans for a strong game.

“It was a pretty good game today. Congrats to the boys and thank you to the Manu Samoa team for the tough game today,” Radradra said post-match.

“We knew Manu Samoa would be tough so we tried to stick to our system – just carry forward and hopefully we get there.”

He also thanked fans at the ground and those around the world for their support.

Losing captain Lee said it was a tough clash.

“Obviously some work to do and certainly some positives as well,” he said.

“From today we gonna move forward going towards the World Cup.”

The weekend win means the Fijians are clear leaders at the top of the points table and head into their final game against Japan next weekend with their tails high.

The Samoans will host Tonga at Apia Park in their final Pacific Nations Cup match.

Tongan fans at the Japan - Tonga Test in Osaka last Saturday night. July 2023

Tongan fans at the Japan – Tonga Test in Osaka last Saturday night. July 2023 Photo: Japan Tonga Community

Tonga loses despite late comeback

In Osaka, Tonga could not go past the strong Japanese defense in the last quarter of the game although they had opportunities to take the game home.

The Brave Blossoms claimed three tries to secure the win.

Japan winger Jone Naikabula finished off a good movement and sprinted down the flank to score first.

But Tonga responded with captain Sonatane Takulua diving over the line.

However, Amato Fakava, Japan’s Tongan import scored when he chased a Naikabula kick through to take Japan’s lead to 13-5 at halftime.

While Tonga repeatedly threatened Japan the hosts did not let them get through again.

The teams claimed a try each in the second spell.

Japan veteran Ryohei Yamanaka said the win should give the team momentum going into the World Cup.

“It was a tough match. It was great that we were able to execute our plans and grab the victory. This should give us more energy going forward,” he said.

“We have had a series of losses and we haven’t been able to show results. So this win today gives us confidence.

“We can grow as a team now and we will have more momentum going forward.”

Tongan captain Takulua said after the game they could not finish off their moves.

“We just could not get there in the end and they defended strongly,” he said.

“We now focus on the next game and we will have to improve.”

Tonga meets Samoa this weekend in Apia while Japan will host Fiji in Tokyo also on Saturday.