Fiji outpace Samoa in Pacific Nations Cup opener

The Fiji backs held too much fire-power as they romped to an overwhelming 34-17 win over Samoa in the opening Pacific Nations Cup rugby championship match on Saturday.

Fiji scored five tries to three, snapping up a bonus point victory against their traditional Pacific island rivals.

It was the season start they were looking for, reversing last year’s loss to Samoa, but their fast-paced game suffered from a high error count as several attacks stretched the Samoan defence before ending with handling errors.

The mistakes restricted Fiji to a 12-0 lead at halftime, but as the Samoan defence began to crumble after the turn they piled on a further 19 points before Samoa came back with three late tries.

“There are still a lot of things we have to fix up. We let them come back at the end, there was a lot of dropped balls. Who knows what the score could have been if we had held on to them,” Fiji captain Mosese Rauluni said.

“We had to get on top of Samoa. We knew they would come back physically and they did at the end as our boys lapsed in defence.”

The benefit of having 12 experienced players back from last year’s World Cup side against a new-look Samoa side was evident from the kick-off as Fiji spent the opening 10 minutes camped on the try-line.

But the points were not immediately forthcoming against a determined defence.

Powerful centre Sireli Naqelevuki, who plies his trade with the Western Stormers in the Super 14 competition, crossed the line early but could not get the ball down and Taniela Rawaqa missed a handy penalty.

Rauluni eventually started the scoring in the 14th minute when he nipped around a ruck unopposed after a Naqelevuki break had taken them up to the line.

Winger Timoci Nagusa, in his Test debut, followed 10 minutes later when he brushed aside three ineffectual tackle attempts in a 30 metre run to the line.

Taniela Rawaqa’s conversion lifted Fiji to a 12-0 lead which he extended to to 19-0 two minutes into the second half with a try and conversion.

Rawaqa, who ended the game with a personal tally of 14 points, immediately orchestrate Fiji’s next try when from the kick-off he started a counter attack from his own 22 which ended with a try to his brother Ifereimi Rawaqa.

Nagusa scored his second try, putting Fiji up 31-0 when he finished off another move which swept the length of the field with seven players handling the ball.

Over the closing stages, Samoa exposed a tiring Fiji defence with tries by Henry Faafili, David Lemi, and Semo Sititi but the gap was too big to bridge.

Raweqa landed a late penalty for Fiji and replacement Neli Sasulu kicked a conversion for Samoa.

Sapa-AFP –

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