It will be an all Fijian affair in the final of the 2010 IRB Pacific Rugby Cup after the two home teams kept the dreams of silverware alive with impressive victories in the final round of pool matches in Sigatoka on Saturday.
Defending champions Fiji Warriors showed their title credentials by defeating a dogged Tau'uta Reds team 48-0 in the final match of the day in front of yet another large and partisan crowd.
Before the match kicked-off one Fiji team had already booked a place in the final as the Fiji Barbarians capped an impressive campaign with an 18-14 victory over Savaii Samoa to finish top of teh PRC standings.
Tautahi Gold had an outside chance of making the final if other results went their way, but in the day's opening match they could not stave off a spirited Upolu Samoa side and went down 24-10 in a thrilling match.
The Fiji Warriors v Fiji Barbarians final is bound to attract significant local interest on Saturday, but even before a ball has kicked off the tournament will have been declared a success for the Fiji Rugby Union.
Aside from guaranteeing a Fiji team on the trophy for a second year, the tournament has delivered significant legacy objectives, proving the worth of moving to a single hosting format.
Upolu Upset the Odds
Before the final round of matches got under way Tautahi Gold had a slim chance of qualifying for the grand final if other results went their way.
However, their dreams were dashed in what was a thrilling second half, demonstrating the intense competive action generated by the PRC.
After a 5-5 deadlock at half time, it appeared neither team would take teh game by the scruff of the neck, but the onlooking supporters were traeted to a feast of excellent rugby in the second half as both sides scored three tries to take the match to the wire.
Uplou Samoa rushed into the lead through early second half tries from Samasoni Moala and Esera Lauina, but midway through the second half the Gold hit back with two tries of their own through replacements Afele Tongia and Petelo Tupou.
However, missed conversions for the Gold were to prove decisive and Pesamino Alauni added a fourth try for Upolu deep in stoppage time. The Gold threw everything at their opponents in the dying minutes and were rewarded with a second try by Tonguia, but it was not enough to secure victory.
Barbarians Edge Through to top table
Fiji Barbarians secured top spot and a place in next week's final with an edgy 19-14 win over Savai'i Samoa in the second match of the day.
Savai'i were in party spoiling mood and took the lead through a Ted Sikovi penalty in the third minute. However, it was a short-lived advantage as Jaoji Dakuvula tied the scores for the Barbarians.
The first try of the match was scored by Barbarians winger William Saukuru after a brilliant break by halfback Emosi Vucago to put the Fijians in front 5-3.
A try to Savai'i outside centre Taulagi Afamasaga, on the back of a slick set-piece move, brought the Samoans back level with the Barbarians 8-all with 14 minutes remaining in the half.
A penalty to Savai'i fullback Ted Sikovi broke the deadlock and gave Savai'i an 11-8 lead.
Dakuvula levelled the scores for the Barbarians with a penalty right at the end of the first half to leave the scores locked at 11-11.
A try to the Barbarians reserve Joe Nabou in the 8th minute of the second half gave the Barbarians a 16-11 lead, while Dakuvula kicked a penalty with 10 minutes to go to give the Barbarians an 8 point cushion.
Savai'I,who needed a bonus point win to have any chance of making the finals, closed the gap 14-19 with a penalty through Sikovi, but with time running out it was looking highly unlikely that they would score the three tries that they required and the Barbarians held out to book their passage to the final next weekend.
Warriors Win in Style to claim final spot
The PRC records tumbled as the Warriors booked their place in the final in style with a 48-0 thrashing of Tau'uta Reds and in doing so posted the largest margin of victory in the competition's history.
Spurred on by a vociferous home support, the tournament's form side had to wait half an hour to break the deadlock after the Tongan team came out hard.
It was Warriors halfback Joeli Nabogikolo who touched down after a five metre scrum was awarded to the defending Champions. Converted by Taniela Rawaqa, the Warriors jumped to a 7-0 lead.
Four minutes later the Warriors were in again when Centre Paula Karatu was put into a gap by his 5/8, Kori Yavala to sprint 15metres and score down the left flank. Rawaqa converted from out wide to give the Warriors a 14-0 lead at the interval.
The Warriors scored a try immediately after the break when winger Aminisitai Niukula raced down the left flank untouched to score in the left corner and open up a 19-0 lead. Rawaqa made it a 22 point lead with a penalty in the 18th minute.
Replacement centre, Nikola Matawalu intercepted a loose ball and completed a 50 metre sash to extend the Warriors lead to 27-0 and secure the bonus point.
Replacement hooker Tuapati Talemaitoga scored just two metres later with a brilliant individual effort and the conversion gave the Warriors a 34-0 lead, much to the delight of the home support.
A third try in the space of two minutes was finished off by Ropate Ratu and Number eight Mosese Volavola crashed over for the final score. Rawaqa again converted on full time to give the Warriors an impressive 48-0 win.
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