With Samoa already crowned IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2012 champions following a thrilling win over Japan at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Ground last weekend, for Fiji and Tonga the final round of the tournament would secure local bragging rights.
Fiji, in runners up spot at the start of the match, ran out 29-17 winners in Lautoka thanks to an impressive second half performance which saw them cross for three tries adding to Metuisela Talebula’s first half score.
The match, which was the only game in this year’s tournament to be played outside Japan allowing both Fiji and Samoa the additional preparation required to face Scotland on their tour to the Islands, proved to be a closely-fought affair initially.
Tonga were 9-7 up at the break thanks to Kurt Morath’s reliable boot, and the match played in hot and dry conditions showed all the signs of being a physical Islanders’ tussle.
From the restart however, the second half had a much more open feel about it with Tonga scoring immediately after the break to extend their lead, Siale Piutau completing a fluid counter attack from the visitors. Despite Morath missing a sideline conversion, the momentum was with Tonga.
But Fiji’s superior attacking options gathered momentum and soon became the difference between the teams as their flying wingers began to make ground. Simeli Koniferedi was deep in his own half when his run opened up Tonga. Surging upfield, accompanied by Seremaia Naureure, the pair combined brilliantly to score under the posts much to the delight of the huge home crowd.
Fiji’s Metuisela Talebula showed his class, breaking with sheer pace and Sevens prowess to slice through the Tongan defence and sprint for a stunning try and from here, Fiji played a mature game to close the test out.
The final standings of the IRB Pacific Nations Cup 2012 were Samoa, Fiji, Tonga and Japan.