Five-time World Rugby Pacific Challenge champions Fiji Warriors maintained their winning run in this year’s competition in comprehensive fashion, with a 56-18 victory over Tonga A in Suva.
While their attack continues to shine with 134 points and 17 tries scored across their first three games – all bonus-point wins, ill-discipline will be an area for concern for the Fijians ahead of Monday’s title-decider against Samoa A.
For the second match running Fiji had a man sent off and they had another man sent to the sin-bin, their fourth in three games, while Tonga A also had a man dismissed and two yellow-carded.
"I'm not really happy with the second half performance, there were lots of penalties given against us and lots of cards. "
"I'm not really happy with the second half performance, there were lots of penalties given against us and lots of ill-discipline. We only played for 60 minutes and let Tonga in for two tries so that's a 'work-on' for us," said Warriors' captain Peni Ravai.
Two penalties from Tonga A fly-half Patelesio Oneone to one from opposite number Nemani Raiwalui handed the Tongans a 6-3 lead with six minutes on the clock.
However, it wasn’t long before Fiji stamped their authority on the game to score the first try through number eight Eremasi Radrodro (pictured above). Scrum-half Henry Seniloli followed him over the line for another try which went unconverted.
Tonga A then suffered the first of their two yellow cards when blindside flanker Bruce Folau was given a 10-minute breather in the 37th minute.
The hosts seized on the numerical advantage to post two more tries in the dying stages of the half with second-row Joseva Levula dotting down and Radrodro getting his second of the match.
Trailing 30-4 at the turnaround, it was vital for Tonga A to get the first score of the second half and they did just that, number eight Sione Lolohea supplying the finish and Oneone tagging on the two points for the conversion.
Shortly after Folau returned to the field, Raiwalui kicked a penalty to nudge Fiji Warriors 20 points clear.
As the game approached the hour mark, two converted tries in the space of four minutes from backs Cyril Reece and Isaia Nataba put significant daylight between the teams.
Tongan Timote Paseka was sin-binned on 59 minutes and he was joined on the sidelines four minutes later when Warriors replacement Alivereti Mocelutu was found to be guilty of a high tackle.
Tu'ihakavalu Ika scored Tonga’s second try against the 14-man Warriors, but they were unable to put any more points on the board before parity was restored.
Both sides ended the game down to 14 men after dismissals to Warriors winger Lepani Raiyala and Tongan forward Sione Lolohea. But there was still time for replacement Kelevi Naimasi to take Fiji past the 50-point mark with the Warriors’ seventh try of the match.
Two-try Fa’afou impresses for Samoa A
A dominant first-half display laid the foundations for Samoa A to record their second win of the tournament.
They raced into a 22-0 half-time lead against Junior Japan, who came out fighting after the break to give some respectability to the final scoreline of 42-22 in the Islanders’ favour.
While pleased with the victory, Samoa A captain Greg Foe knows there are still areas where his side can improve. "It was a good game. We had good phase ball but in some patches we couldn't hold on to the pill and that made things hard for us," he said.
"We lost a few key players to injury and Japan kept us on our toes as the boys started fatiguing in the latter part of the second half."
Full-back Malu Falaniko (pictured) kicked Samoa A into an early lead with a two-point penalty before fly-half Danny Tusitala grabbed the first try on 14 minutes. Falaniko was successful with the conversion.
Two minutes later openside flanker Oneone Fa’afou crossed the line and followed up with a second try not long after to double his tally for the tournament. With Falaniko converting on each occasion, Samoa went into the break well in command.
And they were virtually out of sight five minutes after the re-start when number eight Foe grabbed the bonus-point try, which Falaniko again improved.
Junior Japan struck back with a try for winger Koki Takeyama and their spirits were lifted further when number eight Ryo Inoue powered his way over and Taisetsu Kanai converted to bring the score back to 34-14.
The comeback was quickly repelled just past the hour mark though, after influential centre Isaia Petelo confirmed victory with Samoa’s fifth try. Falaniko kicked the extras to maintain his perfect record from the tee.
Flanker Hyunji Shin scored a consolation try for Junior Japan deep into injury time.
The defeat means that Junior Japan will play Tonga in the third place play-off on Monday while Fiji Warriors and Samoa A come face to face again in the 2016 tournament, this time for the title.
Pacfic Challenge 2016 table
1. Fiji Warriors 15 points
2. Samoa A 10 points
3. Junior Japan 4 points
4. Tonga A 0 points
Photo credit: Zoomfiji
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