Tournament hosts Fiji Warriors and Junior Japan emerged victorious on the opening day of the World Rugby Pacific Challenge 2016 in Suva, beating Samoa A and Tonga A respectively in Suva.

The Pacific Challenge is one of the World Rugby tournaments using the new point values currently being trialled so tries will be worth six points – eight points for a penalty try with no conversion taken – and two points for a conversion, penalty or drop goal.

Tonga A winger Tu’ihakavalu Ika scored the first six-point try in the Pacific Challenge after only six minutes at ANZ Stadium in the Fijian capital, but by the end of the first quarter of the match Junior Japan had edged ahead after Ryoto Nakamura converted winger Takuhei Yasuda’s try.

Nakamura and Patelesio Oneone traded penalties to leave the match finally balanced at 10-8 at half-time, but Junior Japan – who didn’t win a match in the six-team Pacific Challenge in 2015 – stretched that lead early in the second half after captain and flanker Syokei Kin touched down.

With both sides ringing the changes, the score remained at 18-8 until the final 10 minutes when replacement Doga Maeda scored a third try for Junior Japan, Nakamura’s conversion giving his side a 26-8 victory.

Tonga A captain Sione Lolohea admitted they had “a lot of errors to fix for the next game, particularly our set-pieces and handling of the ball”, while his Japanese counterpart Kin insisted that his side were “not satisfied yet but we got the result we wanted.”

Putting a smile back on faces

The win means Junior Japan lie second in the standings, one point behind the Fiji Warriors after they picked up a try bonus point in their 34-6 win over Samoa A, albeit only after they were awarded a penalty try in the last 10 minutes.

Samoa A opened the scoring against last year’s runners-up with penalties from Titi Esau and Ki Anufe, but the Fiji Warriors delighted the home crowd with the first try of the match, through fly-half Alivereti Mocelutu after half an hour.

Serupepeli Vularika added the conversion and two further penalties – sandwiched either side of another effort for Samoa by Anufe – to make it 12-6 at half-time and another tight 40 minutes looked to be on the cards.

However tries from replacements Henry Senioli and Vasikali Mudu put the match result beyond doubt to the delight of Fiji Warriors captain Peni Ravai.

“It is a very good first game, the boys played a good game this afternoon. We only had two weeks of preparation but we played well and we won,” the prop said.

“We played today for the people who suffered from Cyclone Winston, we wanted to put a smile back on their faces.”

The second round of matches take place on Saturday when Samoa A tackle Tonga A at 15:30 local time, before hosts Fiji Warriors face Junior Japan in a top of the table battle.

Photo credit: Bruce Southwick / Zoomfiji