World Rugby Pacific Challenge ready to return in Apia
Three years after they won their first Pacific Challenge title, Junior Japan will begin the defence of that crown when they take on Fiji Warriors at Apia Park on Wednesday.
After a three-year hiatus, the World Rugby Pacific Challenge returned on Wednesday with big wins for Fiji Warriors and host nation Manuma Samoa.
In the first match of the day at Apia Park, the defending champions Junior Japan were no match for Fiji Warriors who began their mission to land a 10th tournament title in impressive style.
Fiji Warriors scored 11 tries, five of them in the final quarter, in a 72-15 victory. It was Junior Japan’s worst defeat in the competition since Fiji Warriors defeated them 83-0 in 2015.
After a fairly sedate opening where the teams traded penalties, Fiji Warriors got their first try in the 12th minute through centre Tevita Sabola.
As the half played out, Isoa Vunasau, Maika Tuitubou and Joseva Nasaroa joined him on the scoreboard as Fiji Warriors went into the break with a 29-3 lead.
A second try from Vunasau was quickly followed by one from Anasa Qaranivalu as their dominance continued.
But approaching the hour-mark, Junior Japan finally hit back to score through Kanjiro Naramoto. Naramoto scored a second just before the final whistle but by then Junior Japan, who are fielding their under-20 team in the competition in preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship in June, had been well and truly beaten.
Fiji Warriors showed no mercy with tries from Ilikimi Naruma, Sireli Masiwini, Simione Bulai, Jack Volavola and Vilikesa Nairau taking their score past 70.
Manuma Samoa started their Pacific Challenge with a strong performance as they brushed aside Tonga A 69-7.
It was a record score and win for Manuma Samoa in 12 meetings against Tonga A.
Bitner Tafili, Melani Matavao and ET Viliamu each bagged a brace of tries and with Sam Taulapapa Ale, Meyer Vanu, Elisapeta Alofipo, Des Sepulona and Uta Taaititi also crossing, Manuma Samoa matched Fiji Warriors’ 11-try return.
Tonga A’s only points came from Sosaia Savelio’s converted try in the 55th minute.
Manuma Samoa will now face the Fiji Warriors on Monday 8 May in what appears to be a pivotal match in determining the destiny of the title.
The first match of the day, also at Apia Park, will be between Tonga A and Junior Japan.
The World Rugby Pacific Challenge provides locally based players with an opportunity to develop their skills in a competitive environment. Twenty-three members of each 28-man squad must be aged 23 or younger at the start of the tournament with the remaining five players any age over 18.