Fiji Warriors prevented a clean sweep by Australian teams in round three of the IRB Pacific Rugby Cup 2013 on Tuesday, the defending champions battling to a 27-22 win over Rebel Rising in Melbourne.
The other matches saw Tonga A lose 32-18 to the Australian Rugby Union’s Sydney based National Academy, Samoa A go down 34-11 to the Emirates Western Force A team and PRC debutants Junior Japan overwhelmed 76-26 by the Brisbane based National Academy.
This means that as the three Pacific Island teams head off to New Zealand for matches against the country’s five Super Rugby development teams, only Fiji Warriors and Samoa A have tasted victory on Australian soil.
On a balmy evening at Harlequins Rugby Club, Fiji Warriors and Rebel Rising served up an eight-try fest with the kicking success of Kolinio Vunaki, Bryce Hegarty and Ratunaisa Vatuiranuku proving the decisive factor.
Aisake Luveniyali scored the opening for the Warriors, only for 18-year-old Kemu Valetini - whose twin brother Bill was also in the Rebel Rising starting line-up - to level things up at 7-7.
Warriors captain Nemani Nadolo and Paul Alo-Emile traded tries before Inoke Tuisese scored a try just before half time to give the defending champions a 19-13 advantage at the break.
The Rebel Rising enjoyed the majority of possession when play resumed but the physicality of the defence resulted in a turnover and runaway try for Penaia Naweilulu. Second tries in the match for Alo-Emile and Valetini cut the deficit to 24-22 but there was to be no comeback win for the Rebel Rising with Vatuiranuku's penalty securing victory for the Warriors.
Tough debut for Junior Japan
Samoa A were unable to make it back-to-back wins in 2013, having edged Sydney Academy 33-24 last time out, after conceding four tries to the Western Force’s development team in the first match of a PRC double header at Ballymore in Brisbane.
The Australian side led only 10-6 after the first quarter with scrum half Chris Eaton scoring the only try and full back James So’oialo keeping Samoa A in touch with two penalties. Second row Rory Walton increased that lead with a 35th minute try to send the Australians in leading 17-6.
Within two minutes of the restart hooker Ben Whittaker had crossed for his side’s third try , but any thoughts of the match turning into a one-sided affair proved unfounded as it was more than 20 minutes before the Western Force A team scored a fourth try through Ed Stubbs.
A fifth quickly followed through replacement Richard Hardwicks, but it was Samoa A who had the final say in the match with replacement Oneone Faafou scoring with less than a minute remaining on the clock.
The Junior Japan side is a mix of University students, Top League players and a handful of High School students and they found live difficult against the Brisbane Academy, conceding 12 tries in the second match at Ballymore.
Fly half Jake McIntyre opened the scoring with a third minute try, but Junior Japan hit back almost immediately through wing Takaaki Nakzuru and took the lead when Takuya Yamasawa added the conversion.
First win for Sydney Academy
The Brisbane Academy, though, ran in six further tries before half-time through Scott Malolua, Jamie Taulagi (2), Alex Toolis and Mitch Felsman (2) with Yamasawa converting his own try for Junior Japan in between.
Samu Kerevi added his name to the scoreboard early in the second half and in the final quarter replacement Harry Parker claimed a hat-trick and Felsman crossed for his third try. Junior Japan did manage to secure a try bonus point with Takumi Mikami and Yamasawa touching down.
Tonga A, meanwhile, had trailed the Sydney Academy by just 6-3 at half-time after David Horwitz and Mosese Latu traded penalties, but tries by Hugh Roach and BJ Hartman within four minutes of the restart gave the ARU National Academy side momentum.
Lalakai Foketi's try increased that lead to 27-6 approaching the hour mark, and while Tonga A scored two tries through Samisone Masima and Latuselu Vailea there was no way back with Jac Cameron also crossing for the Australian side.
Junior Japan will stay on in Australia to face Reds College XV on Monday and then Sydney Academy on 23 March, the Australian series is over for the three Pacific Island teams as they cross the Tasman for the New Zealand series of the key IRB development tournament.
The opening round in New Zealand on Monday will see the Fiji Warriors tackle the Highlanders Development XV at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin, Tonga A meet the Hurricanes Development XV in Wellington and Samoa A face the Blues Development XV at Waitemata Park in west Auckland.
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