Fiji Warriors kept their title hopes alive with a 23-12 victory over Samoa A in the penultimate match of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2011 on Tuesday, a win that takes them above their opponents to the top of the standings.
The Warriors have now amassed 17 points from eight matches in the new-look competition which has involved Super Rugby development sides in New Zealand and Australia as well as the A sides of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga.
However, Fiji Warriors only have a three-point advantage over the Samoans, so if Samoa A beat Tonga A in the tournament’s final match in Sigatoka on Saturday then they will be crowned Pacific Rugby Cup champions.
Tonga A can finish no better than third among the core island teams, even if they cause an upset by beating their Samoan counterparts who were the only team to taste victory in the New Zealand Series earlier this month.
The Warriors went into the match on home soil in Lautoka knowing that victory was an absolute must to keep their title hopes alive, but they found themselves trailing 6-0 early on after a drop goal and penalty by Samoa A captain Roger Warren.
Taniela Maravunawasawasa quickly levelled the scores with two penalties of his own, before the Pacific Island Series hosts scored the only try of the first half through wing Apisalome Waqatabu. Fiji Warriors, though, would only lead 13-9 at the break after another Warren penalty flew between the posts.
Samoa A rang the changes early in the second half as the heavens opened but they were unable to reduce the deficit further until the hour mark when Warren kicked his third penalty at Churchill Park, although the fly half and Titi Esau then both missed changes to kick the Samoans ahead again.
Fiji Warriors lost their captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu in between the Samoan misses, but they belied their man disadvantage to pull clear in the closing stages with Waqatabu scoring his second try of the match before Maravunawasawasa kicked the conversion and a penalty.
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