Fiji Warriors have climbed above Samoa A in the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2012 standings after the first set of matches in the New Zealand series of the tournament.
The Warriors edged out the Crusader Knights 17-13 at Rugby Park in Christchurch while Samoa A went down 71-17 to the Chiefs Development XV at ECOLight Stadium in Pukekohe.
For Samoa A, it is their first defeat of this year’s tournament, after three wins in the Australian series. For defending IRB Pacific Rugby Cup champions Fiji Warriors, they have now won three in a row after their opening day defeat to Queensland A.
Warriors edge out Crusaders
Fiji Warriors held on in a nervy last 20 minutes against a rallying Crusader Knights to claim a prized 17-13 win on New Zealand soil.
The Crusaders lead 8-6 at half time thanks to a try from second row Ross Kennedy and a penalty from fly half Tyrone Elkington, with Jonetani Ralulu kicking two penalties for the visitors.
Fiji Warriors uppped the ante at the start of the second half, scoring their only try through Alipate Ratini six minutes in. Raululu extended the lead to 14-8 with a drop goal as the Fijian forwards gave their backs the space to stretch the Crusaders’ defence to the limit.
But the Crusaders dug deep as the half went on, giving their supporters hope when replacement prop Sam Prattley dotted down with five minutes to go. However, the Warriors’ defence stood firm as the Crusaders’ searched for another gap in the final minutes.
Chiefs outclass Samoa A
Chiefs Development XV gained sweet revenge for last year’s PRC defeat to Samoa A, outclassing their opponents 71-17 at ECOLight Stadium in this year’s tournament.
Rory Grice, Matt Vant Leven and Ahsee Tuala all scored two tries for the Chiefs Development XV in the 11-try win, avenging the narrow lose to the Samoans in last year's competition.
Meki Magele and Maselino Paulino scored a try each for Samoa in the first half, to give them hope going into the break only 31-17 down, but six second half tries by the Chiefs saw them run out comfortable winners.
“We were not expecting the high intensity from the development teams but it was a good experience for the boys to play at this level," said Samoa A prop Heroshi Tea. "It is a development programme and we are all learning lots. It is always good to play good sides.”
Tonga A still winless
Tonga A are still searching for their first win in this year’s PRC after going down 40-3 to the Blues Development XV at Lloyd Elsmore Park in Pakuranga.
Blues centre Francis Saili was one of the standout performers for the home side, regularly making it over the gain line, and capped a fine performance with a try after 24 minutes.
Second row Liaki Moli showed plenty of strong running throughout and was rewarded with the last of the Blues’ six tries in the final minute of the match.
Despite defeat, Tonga A captain Finau Tupa was pleased with his side’s display. “It was the best we have played so far. The Blues are a very strong team, it was a physical match. We need to learn from our mistakes, especially at the ruck.”
Blues Development XV play Fiji Warriors on 13 March in the next round of the New Zealand series. two days later Tonga A face the Crusader Knights and Highlanders Development XV make their PRC debut against Samoa A.