Fiji set sights on WXV qualification in Australia
Ahead of the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2023, which kicks off on Australia’s Gold Coast on Friday, we caught up with Fiji captain Sereima Leweniqila.
Fiji sevens star Reapi Ulunisau made a sensational test debut in the opening round of the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2023 by scoring four tries at Bond University in Queensland.
The DHL Impact Player of the HSBC World Rugby Women’s Sevens Series 2023 effortlessly transferred her skills to the 15s arena as Fiji chalked up a 77-0 opening-round win over a dogged Papua New Guinea outfit.
The reigning regional champions put the disappointment of their 22-5 defeat to Australia last weekend behind them and were back at their offloading best in a devastating display of finishing, capped by Ulunisau’s contribution.
Credit has to go to Papua New Guinea, though, for their determined defence, which ensured a repeat of the 152-0 defeat they suffered at the hands of Fijiana last year was never on the cards.
The second match of the day was no less one-sided as the heavy Samoa pack laid the foundations for a 69-5 victory against Tonga.
Using their dominant scrum and big runners to good effect, Manusina softened up the overworked Tonga defence time and time again before spreading the play wide where the previously uncapped full-back, Hasting Leiataua, profited with a hat-trick of tries.
Another huge plus for Manusina was the excellent form of fly-half Cassie Siataga. Siataga controlled the game well and kicked superbly from hand and from the tee, converting seven of her team’s 11 tries, the last of which she scored herself.
Whoever wins the four-team tournament will qualify for WXV 2, which is scheduled to be played in Cape Town, South Africa, in October, while the runners-up will compete in WXV 3.
The next round of matches take place on Tuesday, 30 May with Manusina up against Papua New Guinea and Fiji facing Tonga.
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It took Fijiana 12 minutes to break Papua New Guinea’s brave rearguard action but once hooker Keleni Marawa peeled off the back of a maul for the first try, there was no looking back.
Ana Maria Naimasi then crossed twice in as many minutes before fellow sevens star Reapi Ulunisau got the first of her quartet as Fijiana kept the ball alive at every opportunity.
Fijiana even extended their lead when Naimasi was in the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle, tight-head Ava Korovata rumbling over from close range for a half-time score of 31-0.
The reigning Oceania champions stepped up a couple of gears in the second half and within 24 seconds of the restart, Ulunisau profited from a pop-up pass from the deck by Adita Milinia.
Ulunisau’s hat-trick try came on 48 minutes and she was involved in the next score, too, with an assist for impressive blindside flanker, Fulori Nabura.
A searing break from deep by rangy openside Raijieli Daveua led to Ulunisau becoming only the second Fijiana player to cross for four tries in a test.
Daveua went from one 22 to the other before finding Ulunisau on her shoulder and the full-back strolled home to match the feat of Ilisapeci Delaiwau in last year’s 152-0 record win against the Cassowaries.
Fijiana were becalmed for a 15-minute period thereafter, but Sulita Waisega came off the bench and made a big impact, scoring a fine solo try.
Fellow replacement Karalaini Naisewa followed her over the line before Nabura and then Waisega dotted down for their second tries.
Samoa wasted no time stamping their authority on the second match at Bond University, scoring the first of their 11 tries with exactly a minute gone.
Manusina applied pressure from the off and that led to Tonga having a kick charged down. Captain Sui Pauaraisa was stopped just short in the ensuing melee but number eight Utumalama Atonio crashed over from close range in the next phase.
Tight-head Jacqui Aiono then ignored a three-player overlap to cross the line herself as Manusina continued to dominate territory and possession.
By the time Tonga got their hands on the ball in a meaningful position around the end of the first quarter, Manusina had scored twice more.
Powerfully-built winger Linda Fiafia squeezed in at the corner for their third try before Atonio bumped off two defenders to cross for her second and Manusina’s fourth.
The first of Hasting Leiataua’s three tries in the match came after the pack had won a scrum against the head. Play was spread wide, from right to left, and Leiataua was on hand to dive over having picked herself off the floor after executing a sublime behind-the-back offload in the build-up.
Makayla Eli scored one and then set up another, for Leiataua, on the stroke of half-time and with Siataga landing her sixth conversion, Manusina went into the break 47-0 up.
Tonga’s half-time team talk clearly had the desired effect as they came out with much more intent and were rewarded with their only try when second-row Seneti Killisimasi wriggled over despite the close attentions of three defenders.
Normal order was soon restored, and Leiataua’s hat-trick try came in the 56th minute from a quick tap penalty. After quick thinking from replacement scrum-half Saelua Leaula, second-row Easter Savelio delivered the try-scoring pass on a plate for the rookie full-back.
Ana Mamea was next to score, from a lineout drive, before Glory Aiono joined her sister on the scoresheet on another good day for the front-row union.
A lack of composure inside the Tonga 22 prevented further tries being scored but there was no denying player-of-the-match, Cassie Siataga when she took a pass from Atonio at pace and crossed in the last play of the game.
With the conversion, the fly-half took her points tally in the match to 19 and ensured Samoa had a new record score and margin of victory against Tonga.