The Junior All Blacks have been crowned inaugural IRB Pacific 5 Nations champions after recording a 38-8 victory over a battling Japan in Dunedin on Saturday afternoon. The Juniors, who have claimed maximum points from all four matches, have a bye in the final round but cannot be overhauled.
In the competition's other match, Fiji recorded their first win of the competition in a close encounter in Suva, defeating Samoa 23-20. Wayne Pivac's side held a 17-5 lead at the interval, but had to withstand a strong fight back from the Samoan's in a tense second half.
Junior All Blacks 38, Japan 8
Winger Anthony Tuitavake scored a hat-trick of tries as the Junior All Blacks were made to work extremely hard by a combative Japan side who have shown improvement throughout the duration of the inaugural IRB Pacific 5 Nations competition.
Samoa, who were the only side who could challenge the Junior All Blacks, fell to Fiji in Suva, while the Junior All Blacks finished the competition unbeaten after four matches with Tuitavake and capped winger Celeb Ralph looking particularly impressive.
Japan were competitive from the outset and were out-muscled at the breakdown in the early exchanges. Indeed the visitors were the better side for the opening twenty-minutes, leading through a Wataru Ikeda penalty until Tuitavake crossed for his first try of the match.
Having made eight personnel changes, the Junior All Blacks were not at their blistering best, but when they eventually clicked into gear, the home side's experienced back line proved to make the difference as they made the most of their opportunities.
Indeed all six tries were scored by the backs, with Tuitavake the main beneficiary of some sublime back play.
Despite leading 19-3 at half time after well-worked tries from Tuitavake (2) and Ralph, the Junior All Blacks did not have the game won. Japan, playing with confidence and determination, produced arguably their best performance of the tournament after being hammered by Samoa and Tonga in previous rounds.
The Junior All Blacks struck early after the interval with Ralph evading three tackles to score, before Tuitavake completed his hat-trick in the fifty-second minute, crossing under the posts.
Impressive fly half Cameron McIntyre carved his way through the Japan midfield on the hour to give the Juniors an unassailable 38-3 lead before Japan scored the try that theior endeavour deserved through fullback Takashi Miyake.Fiji 23, Samoa 20
Fiji won a thrilling contest in Suva on Saturday afternoon, defeating Samoa 23-20 to claim its first victory in the inaugural IRB Pacific 5 Nations.
The Fijians showed great character in the face of adversity to play more than 50 minutes of the match with 14 men after Mosese Luveitasau was dismissed by referee Wayne Barnes for a spear tackle after just 27 minutes.
Samoa, full of confidence after a good win against Japan, started the game well and dominated the early exchanges as the visitors' pack subjected Fiji's eight to severe pressure both at the set piece and the breakdown. A concerted period of pressure on the Fiji line eventually led to Danile Farani crossing for the game's opening try.
However, just as it appeared that the Samoans would pile on the points, Fiji came right back into the match with Norman Ligairi weaving his way to the line for a sensational individual try after Rupeni Caucau's break. Seremia Bai's penalty in the 21st minute stretched the home side's lead to 10-5.
However, Luveitasau's sending off left Fiji facing a rather difficult task, but the home side showed immense character not only to withstand immense pressure from the Samoans, but also to rally and produce the next score of the game as Norman Ligari bagged his brace.
Fiji held a 17-5 lead at the interval, but Samoa, playing with the wind behind the, increased the pressure in the second half and soon took advantage of the extra man. Loki Crichton struck his first penalty goal of the afternoon to reduce the deficit and six minutes later converted Eliota Fuimaono Sapolu's try to reduce Fiji's lead to just two points.
However, just as it appeared that the Fijians would capitulate, a string of Samoan errors and some committed Fiji defence, allowed the home side to come back into the game. Three consecutive Bai penalties eased the home side's nerves and despite Semo Setiti's late score, Fiji hung on for a memorable victory.
IRB Pacific 5 Nations Round Four details
Junior All Blacks: 15 Ben Atiga, 14 Anthony Tuitavake, 13 Niva Ta'auso, 12 Cameron McIntyre, 11 Caleb Ralph, 10 Stephen Donald, 9 Jamie Nutbrown, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Josh Blackie, 6 Steven Bates, 5 Bernie Upton/Tom Donnelly, 4 Anthony Boric, 3 John Afoa, 2 Corey Flynn (captain), 1 John Schwalger.
Reps:16 Saimone Taumoepeau, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Hoani MacDonald, 19 Johnny Leo'o, 20 Kevin Senio, 21 Tamati Ellison, 22 Sosene Anesi.
Tries: Anthony Tuitavake (3), Caleb Ralph (2), Cameron McIntyre
Cons: Cameron McIntyre (4)
Japan: Details to follow
Try: Takashi Miyake
Pen: Wataru Ikeda
FIJI: 15 Norman Ligairi, 14 Mosese Luveitasau (red card 27), 13 Kameli Ratuvou, 12 Seru Rabeni, 11 Rupeni Caucau, 10 Seremaia Bai, 9 Jacob Rauluni, 8 Netani Talei, 7 Aca Ratuva (blood bin Alivereti Doviverata 69), 6 Semisi Naevo, 5 Simon Raiwalui (capt), 4 Isoa Domolailai, 3 Apisai Nagi (Ravuamo Samo 75), 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Josese Bale
Tries: Ligairi (2)
Conversion: Bai (2)
Penalty goal: Bai (3)
SAMOA: 15 Tanner Vili, 14 Lome Faátau, 13 Seilala Mapusua (yellow card 27-36), 12 Eliota Sapolu, 11 Brian Lima, 10 Loki Crichton, 9 John Senio, 8 Semo Sititi (capt), 7 Ulia Ulia Isaac Feaunati 75), 6 Daniel Farani, 5 Chad Slade (Pelu Taele 57), 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Census Johnstone (Muliufi Salanoa 75), 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Justin Vaa (Philemon Tolefoa 66)
Tries: Farani, Sapolu, Sititi
Penalty goal: Crichton
IRB Pacific 5 Nations Round Four standings
P W D L PF PA PD BP PTS
1 Junior All Blacks 4 4 0 0 167 47 120 4 20
2 Tonga 3 2 0 0 91 77 14 1 9
3 Samoa 3 1 0 2 90 88 2 2 6
4 Fiji 3 1 0 2 63 79 -16 1 5
5 Japan 3 0 0 3 33 148 -115 0 0
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