IRB Pacific Nations CUP
Samoa overcame all odds to win the ANZ Pacific Nations Cup 2010 as the fifth insallment of the tournament broke new ground in Apia.
Not only were the matches streamed live on the IRB website for the first time, the tournament also provided two Rugby World Cup preview matches in the final round - Japan v Tonga and Fiji v Samoa - and crowned its first champion from outside of New Zealand.
With all but the opening match between Fiji and Japan being hosted at Apia Park, Samoa, the hosts put in their best performance of the tournament when it mattered against Fiji to clinch the title in a dramatic finale.
Having narrowly beaten Tonga 24-23 in the opening match, Samoa suffered just their second ever defeat to Asian Five Nations champions Japan on 19 June, losing 31-23 and therefore knew they had to win by at least 13 points and gain a try scoring bonus point in the process against Fiji.
Three tries in the final 15 minutes ensured victory for Samoa and the triumph follows on from the IRB Sevens World Series title won in May, with many of the Sevens stars playing pivotal roles for Fuimaono Tafua's team.
Alafoti Fa'osilivia came off the bench to score two tries in three minutes to secure the try scoring bonus point and IRB Sevens Player of the Year Mikaele Pesamino finished as the tournament's joint top try scorer, alongside Tonga's Vungakoto Lilo, with three.
"We came into this game to win and scoring four tries was a bonus. We knew Fiji was going to be strong so we had to be mentally and physically stronger than them," said head coach Tafua.
"I give credit to the players for their effort and this is a good building ground as we prepare for the Rugby World Cup next year.
"The team had been under pressure the whole week and we needed to come out with a super show. The Head of State had told us to improve on our weaknesses and that motivated the players to work harder."
As part of their Rugby World Cup 2011 preparations Samoa, who will play in Pool D alongside South Africa, Wales, Fiji and Namibia, were captained by hooker Mahonri Schwalger and he dedicated this win to the home crowd after the final whistle.
"I am pretty lost for words, but we came out here to win the game and gave it all we had for the people in our country," added Schwalger.
"It is amazing what attitude can do. At the end of the day you want to win the game and we threw everything we had at Fiji and now we have the cup so I am proud of my boys.
"I think last week we were pretty disappointed, as with the first week, but we had a close look at ourselves and each other and knew we had to put in a big performance against Fiji. I am so proud that we were able to win the tournament."
Heading into the final round, Japan knew they had to secure a try scoring bonus point to be in with any chance of winning the trophy, having beaten Samoa the previous week, but only scored twice against Tonga.
Their 26-23 victory over Tonga meant they finished third overall, whilst Tonga could only manage their third losing bonus point of the tournament to finish fourth but had some consolation, however, as fly half Kurt Morath was the top points scorer with 41 points.
The tournament also unearthed future stars, with Fiji scrum half Nikola Matawalu and Tonga's Alipate Fatafehi graduating from the Pacific Rugby Cup to star in the PNC.
ANZ PACIFIC NATIONS CUP 2010 RESULTS
12/06/10 - Samoa 24-23 Tonga
12/06/10 - Fiji 22-8 Japan
19/06/10 - Fiji 41-38 Tonga
19/06/10 - Samoa 23-31 Japan
26/06/10 - Japan 26-23 Tonga
26/06/10 - Fiji 9-31 Samoa
Highlights of both the final two match of the ANZ PNC 2010 will be available on-demand on the IRB website.
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