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Pacific Nations Cup: Victory for Vui's Samoa, Tonga beaten

Chris Vui and Charles Piutau were in action in the opening round of the Pacific Nations Cup, with Tonga beaten by Fiji and Samoa edging out Australia A.

A last-minute try to debutant wing Nigel Ah Wong has ensured Manu Samoa a Pacific Nations Cup-opening win over Australia A in Fiji.

With the match tied up in the closing moments of the tournament-opener, Ah Wong secured victory for Samoa by pinching an intercept from one-test Wallabies midfielder Lalakai Foketi inside the Australian red zone.

Strolling over untouched, Ah Wong’s second try of the contest handed Samoa an upset 31-26 victory over an Australia A outfit that featured five capped Wallabies in its match day squad.

That experience proved worthless in the opening few minutes at ANZ National Stadium in Suva, though, as ill-discipline plagued Australia A badly.

Samoa duly made them pay when Perpignan hooker Seilala Lam crashed over from the last of numerous lineout raid deep inside Australian territory.

Samoa’s buffer was extended when Ah Wong sailed over in the left-hand corner, at which point veteran referee Jaco Peyper went to his pocket and yellow carded Australian lock Ryan Smith due to his side’s repeated infringements.

Trailing by 12 points with a man in the sin bin, Australia A needed to be the next side to strike in order to keep their hopes alive.

They did just that when two-test Wallabies flanker Fraser McReight fortuitously pounced on a loose ball that Manu Samoa couldn’t retain inside their own in-goal area.

McReight’s effort was cancelled out when midfielder D’Angelo Leuila scored Samoa’s third try in dubious circumstances near the half-hour mark, allowing the Pacific Island nation to take a 19-7 lead into the break.

Back to a full complement of players in the second half, Australia A struck twice within the space of five minutes to pull level.

Captain and halfback Ryan Lonergan was the first to go over in the 52nd minute, and he was followed by McReight, who showed plenty of fortitude to chase the ball down in an empty Samoan backfield and score.

The 23-year-old Reds star’s two-try showing capped off a strong performance that is sure to grab the attention of Wallabies boss Dave Rennie.

With both sides level at 19-all, there was all to play for in the match’s final 10 minutes, which exploded into life when reserve halfback Jonathan Taumateine opportunistically scurried away from the back of a faulty scrum to put Samoa back in front.

Australia A responded just minutes later when a scintillating piece of attacking play resulted in a try to Taumateine’s opposite James Tuttle, who cantered in under the posts to make the scoreline 26-all.

That, however, was as close as Australia A got to victory, as the following restart saw Foketi’s overeagerness with ball in hand fatally punished by Ah Wong, whose late scoring exploits gave Samoa an early lead on the Pacific Nations Cup table.

Samoa will continue their campaign against Tonga in Lautoka next weekend, while Australia A will look to bounce back against Fiji at Churchill Park in a week’s time.

Manu Samoa 31 (Tries to Seilala Lam, Nigel Ah Wong (2), D’Angelo Leuila and Jonathan Taumateine; 2 conversions to Rodney Iona)

Australia A 26 (Tries to Fraser McReight (2), Ryan Lonergan and James Tuttle; 2 conversions to Lonergan, conversion to Reece Hodge).

Charles Piutau's Tonga debut ended in defeat as Fiji beat the ‘Ikale Tahi 36-0 in their Pacific Nations Cup clash in Suva.

Tonga could not contain the well-oiled Flying Fijians as the hosts – who had an ex-All Black of their own in the form of debutant midfielder Seta Tamanivalu – kept the visitors scoreless all while running in five tries.

The first of those came in quick succession as lock Tevita Ratuva and wing Jiuta Wainiqolo both dotted down inside the opening 10 minutes, putting their opponents on the back foot as Tonga battled to gain any ascendency due to their faltering set piece.

Their woes were accentuated when hooker Sam Moli threw terrible lineout near the Fijian tryline and handed possession straight back to the hosts, who produced a piece of attacking brilliance to go nearly 100 metres and score through debutant midfielder Kalaveti Ravouvou.

Fekitoa, probably Tonga’s best player, looked to have registered his side’s first try when he crashed over from close range, but referee Ben O’Keeffe denied him a try on ‘Ikale Tahi debut.

Instead, O’Keeffe called a penalty against the Flying Fijians and sent first-five Teti Tela to the sin bin for throwing the ball away.

Even with the numerical advantage, the Tongans struggled to capitalise as their forwards battled to match the physicality of their Fijian counterparts at the set piece and failed to capitalise on the ill-discipline of their opponents.

Things went from bad to worse when Folau hobbled off with an injury near the half-hour mark, leaving debutant first-five William Havili without a much-needed source of experience outside of him as he became prone to his misfiring boot.

A penalty goal to fullback Seta Tuicuvu, kicking in the absence of Tela, gave Fiji a comprehensive 22-0 lead at half-time.

Coming out the gates strongly in the second stanza, Tonga were denied two tries to No 8 Sione Tu’ipulotu and debutant replacement flanker Sione Havili Talitui, firstly for double movement and then for a forward pass.

The ‘Ikale Tahi could feel aggrieved at those disallowed tries – especially Havili Talitui’s non-try, which was dubiously scrubbed out – but they can have no complaints in which the Fijians tore them to shreds to put an exclamation mark on their performance.

Two tries in six minutes, scored by Tuicuvu and Fijian Drua standout and debutant Flying Fijians wing Vinaya Habosi, killed off any faint hope of a Tongan comeback in what was a resounding result for the home team in front of their packed out crowd.

The result lifts Fiji to the top of the Pacific Nations Cup table, one point clear of second-placed Samoa, who earlier recorded a last-gasp win against Australia A at ANZ National Stadium.

Fiji will continue their Pacific Nations Cup campaign against Australia A at Churchill Park next Saturday, the same day in which Tonga will look to turn their fortunes around against Samoa in Lautoka.

Fiji 36 (Tries to Tevita Ratuva, Jiuta Wainiqolo, Kalaveti Ravouvou, Seta Tuicuvu and Vinaya Habosi; 4 conversions to Teti Tela, penalty to Tuicuvu


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