IRB Pacific Nations CUP
Fiji kicked off their 2010 ANZ Pacific Nations Cup campaign with a 22-8 victory over Asian Five Nations champions Japan in the opening match of this year's tournament in Lautoka.
The victory was Fiji's 10th over Japan, although after making a late replacement with Iliesa Keresoni taking over from vice captain Sireli Naqelevuki at inside centre, Sam Domoni's side got off to a slow start.
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Leading just 3-0 at half time through debutant full back Jaoji Dakavula in the fourth minute, the hosts had to wait until the 50th minute for their first try after both sides had missed two further penalties in the first half.
When it diid come Fiji demonstrated their attacking finesse after turning the ball over from a Japanese attack. Scrum half Nikola Matawalu received the ball inside his own 22 before chipping over the opposition defence, collecting his own kick and sprinting over the line to give the hosts a 10-0 lead with Dakaluva adding the conversion.
Fiji scored their second try five minutes later following with another fine counter attacking move after stealing possession off Japan in their own half. Rupeni Nasiqa received the ball from Matawalu before kicking through for Timoci Nagusa to collect and race under the posts.
Dakavula converted to make the score 17-0 before Japan staged a brief recovery through a Ryan Nicholas penalty and captain Takashi Kikutani try to set up an enthralling final ten minutes at 17-8.
Any thoughts of a comeback were dashed however, when Keresoni spotted a gap in the Japanese defence to score with four minutes remaining and secure the 22-8 victory for the hosts.
As the only match being played outside of Samoa, both teams will now travel to Apia for their next matches, with Fiji playing Tonga and Japan taking on hosts Samoa. In the other first round match, Samoa play Tonga.
Fiji head coach Sam Domoni:
"We always force things in a match. We forced passes and all those little things that we will now try to eliminate. These things come into play together with the weather, humidity and slippery ball but we want to try and quicken our play.
"We can't be giving away penalties if we want to play against Tier One nations and there is a lot of work to be done. It's a rusty beginning but we have set a platform to work on."
Japan head coach John Kirwan:
"It was a disappointing result from our point of view and the boys are disappointed because we did not play as well as what we could do. There were a lot errors in the game which cost us.
"The two tries were from turnovers and mistakes and for us the individual errors cost us. Two of their tries came in from 80 metres when we were on attack and turned the ball over. You do that in Fiji and it's going to cost you."