Fiji Warriors are the only side in the Australia Series of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2011 with a 100 percent record after edging the Junior Waratahs 15-12 on match day two following the QAS Reds Academy's 23-20 loss to Samoa A and the Brumby Runners 22-22 draw with Tonga A.
The Australia Series draws to a climax on Monday when Fiji Warriors face the Brumby Runners in Canberra, the QAS Reds Academy tackle Tonga A at Ballymore and the Junior Waratahs meet Samoa A.
The IRB Pacific Rugby Cup then continues with a New Zealand Series involving a Hurricanes Development XV, Chiefs Development XV and the Crusader Knights, before climaxing with a Pacific Island Series in Fiji to determine the 2011 champions.
Brumby Runners 22-22 Tonga A
Tonga A bounced back from the disappointment of their opening loss to the Junior Waratahs to battle back to earn a 22-22 draw with the Brumby Runners at Vikings Park in Canberra.
In front of a vocal crowd with strong representation from Canberra’s Tongan community, the visitors’ forwards put in an impressive second half performance to twice claw back a deficit.
First half tries by captain Nick White and Australian Sevens representative Henry Vanderglass set a solid platform for the Brumby Runners, whose wide and fast running game was troubling the young Tongan backline.
In fact a try right on half time by Tonga A wing Ratu Maafu, from a turnover in the Brumby Runners’ 22, was one of their few excursions into the attacking quarter. Nonetheless they went in trailing only 12-8.
The game plan for Tonga A changed noticeably in the second half with their forward pack asserting their authority in a tight, physical contest, but it was a try for Brumby Runners wing Vili Longi that stung the visitors into action.
The Tongan pack kept the ball tight with a disciplined pick and go structure that saw them dominate both territory and possession, with second row Taumei Hikila’s try the reward for their efforts.
Hikila’s try cut the deficit to 17-15, but whenever the Brumby Runners backline could get the ball they looked dangerous and they reasserted their advantage with a fourth try of the night through replacement Rory Walton with 15 minutes remaining.
The Tongans, though, weren’t finished and set up a thrilling finale after wing Mateo Malupo touched won in the corner, allowing Edmond Paea to tie the scores with the conversion. They could have snatched the win had fly half Paea not missed two penalty attempts, but national coach Isitolo Maka could still see the positives from the match.
“I’m happy. They (Brumby Runners) fielded a very good team and I am pleased with how my forwards played in the second half in particular,” said Maka. “We blew some chances to win the game but we will improve a lot from that match.”
QAS Reds Academy 20-23 Samoa A
A healthy local Samoan crowd was on hand to watch their A team do battle with the QAS Reds Academy in a spirited and bruising match at Ballymore, and were given cause to celebrate as the visitors ran out 23-20 winners.
Samoa A made a somewhat unsettled start, taken aback by a very enthusiastic QAS Reds Academy side who pinned their opponents in their own half for the first 10 minutes and choked any momentum they tried to gather.
However, it was the visitors who took the lead thanks to two penalties from captain Roger Warren, and it wasn’t until the 31st minute that the hosts got on the scoreboard with wing Kimami Situati’s try.
Both sides would have been happy to enter the changing rooms after a half of fast-paced rugby and punishing tackles, but it was the QAS Reds Academy who enjoyed the slender lead following Jono Lance’s late penalty.
Samoa A came out firing in the second half and immediately camped in the QAS Reds Academy 22, determined to deprive their hosts of possession, while applying pressure at the breakdown and set pieces in the hope of forcing a mistake.
It wasn’t long before the Samoans were rewarded for their efforts with flanker Iosefa Timusa touching down and Warren adding the conversion and a subsequent penalty to push them out to 16-8.
With their tails in the air, Samoa A continued to apply pressure at the breakdown, denying the hosts any rhythm to create a platform to break their opponent’s line.
Instead it was the visitors who seized upon a turnover opportunity, launching an attack out wide across the QAS Reds Academy 10-metre line for Fautua Otto to bedazzle his opponents, and the crowd, to slip through under the posts untouched.
Warren’s conversion made it 23-8, but QAS Reds Academy were not to be outdone or outshone and came charging back with tries from Mitchell Felsman and Dominic Shipperley, the latter a classy chip, chase and regather.
QAS Reds Academy ultimately ran out of time to complete the comeback, leaving the Samoans to celebrate their first victory of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2011, having gone down 29-13 to the Brumby Runners on day one.
“I am happy with the win and the improvement from the first match, but improvement is still needed at the set piece and general game management if we are to be successful,” admitted Samoa A coach Selefuti Patu.
Junior Waratahs 12-15 Fiji Warriors
Fiji Warriors are the only side with a 100 percent record in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup after battling to a 15-12 victory over the Junior Waratahs at St Mary’s League Club in Sydney.
The beginning of the match was all the Junior Waratahs with some strong running by their forwards and slick backline moves building pressure, which ultimately resulted in Australia Sevens star John Grant scoring the opening try with Bernard Foley adding the conversion.
However, the momentum then swung Fiji Warriors way with the their scrum proving very effective and pushing the Junior Waratahs’ pack backwards at times, while flanker Malakai Volau burst through tackles with regularity.
The Fijians got their reward when wing Isoa Coalala touched down with Taniela Maravunawasawasa’s conversion tying the scores at 7-7 after 36 minutes.
It was the Junior Waratahs, though, who would lead 12-7 at half time after number 8 Tala Gray’s try, which came with their opponents a man down following Volau’s yellow card for repeated Fijian infringements near their own line.
The second half began with a reinvigorated Warriors side piling on the pressure despite the absence of Volau and they got back on level terms following some good forward play and more strong running from Coalala, evoking memories of Jonah Lomu by running over the top of his opponent.
The ball went through 10 pairs of hands before full back Adriu Delai crossed the try-line and the Warriors, Fiji’s A side, kept hold of possession in the final quarter and forced the Junior Waratahs into giving away a number of penalties for infringements around the ruck.
Maravunawasawasa kicked one from near the halfway line, but three other attempts all missed the mark which kept the hosts in the hunt. They mounted one final attacking down the touchline with the last play of the match, but good covering tackles nullified the attack to give the Fijians the victory.
“The tournament has been very challenging for us to date and these tight turnarounds is what we will encounter in the Rugby World Cup and as such helps us test our systems and ability to react to problems as we progress,” explained Fiji national coach Sam Domoni.
Fiji technical advisor Greg Mumm added: “The team has really improved on its defence, which was an area we have worked on from the QAS Reds Academy match on Saturday. The scrum continues to improve even with one of our best props being rested for this game.”