13th Place Play-off: Tonga 28-20 Fiji

(IRB.COM) Saturday 21 June 2008
By Hywel Roberts
From Wrexham
 
 13th Place Play-off: Tonga 28-20 Fiji
William Takai celebrates scoring Tonga's third try against Fiji - Photo: Huw Evans

Tonga came out on the top in the all-Pacific encounter, beating Fiji 28-20 in a back and forth encounter at the Racecourse Ground in Wrexham to claim 13th place at the inaugural IRB Junior World Championship on Saturday.

The Tongans, who came into the tournament as the number 16 seeds, were the first to score, Sotele Hehea starting and finishing a move that saw the second row touch down in the corner after only five minutes, though fly half Sione Toke was unable to convert the score from wide.
 
However, Fijian dominance in the forwards gave them a steady stream of penalties with fly half Sakiusa Malai Bulivakarua hitting the target twice in the opening 20 minutes of the match to give his side a 6-5 lead.

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Not to be outdone, Tonga regained their lead with a penalty from Toke, followed by a superb weaving try for wing Mateo Malupo, giving the Tongans a 13-6 half-time advantage.
 
Fiji emerged for the second half full of fire and subjected Tonga to 10 minutes of unrelenting pressure on their try-line, but found the Tongan defence unwavering and Malupo then capped a man of the match performance with a sizzling run, allowing centre William Takai to cross for Tonga’s third try of the match in the 55th minute.
 
Tonga’s 18-6 lead was further extended just past the hour mark with a converted try for Toke, who marshalled his side well throughout a match involving two sides looking to end the tournament on a high.
 
With less than 20 minutes remaining, Fiji’s hopes of victory looked faint, but their hard work was rewarded in the 74th minute when wing Patemio Kocoturaga scored in the corner, Bulivakarua converting to reduce the deficit to 25-13.

Any hopes of a late comeback were dashed, however, when Toke added a further penalty to his tally, presenting the Fijians with an insurmountable challenge.
 
Yet despite this, Fiji never gave in, flanker Uraia Verenadavui scoring a final try for the islanders, leaving a final score of 28-20 in Tonga’s favour after Bulivakarua’s conversion.
 
QUOTES
 
Tonga Head Coach Fe’ao Vakata:
“We have improved with every game. We controlled the conditions better than our opponents. We will go back home pleased with our efforts in this great tournament.”
 
Tonga Captain Constantin Kauvaka: “It is always great to play against Fiji and it was an enjoyable game. Both teams worked hard and despite losing out up front in the first half we were still going strong at the end of the match.”
 
Fiji Head Coach Rayne Simpson: “We dominated the set-pieces but our usual style of play was undoubtedly affected by the wet conditions. Due to indiscipline we had 20 minutes with 14 men, during which they capitalised. The tournament has been a fantastic experience for players, coaches and support staff, and it can do only good for rugby in Fiji to play at this level.”
 
Fiji Captain Jese Cirikisuva: “It is always a hard game against Tonga, but although they won, we had the consolation of scoring a great try at the end of the game.”

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