Australia A edge clear of Maori in Pacific Nations Cup

Australia A deluged hapless Tonga with 14 tries to pull two points clear of New Zealand Maori at the top of the Pacific Nations Cup standings after this weekend’s third round of matches.


The Australians gained a scoring bonus point in their 90-7 overpowering of Tonga in Sydney while the Maori had a torrid 17-6 home win over Samoa in Hamilton on Saturday.


Fiji are a further two points adrift in third spot after battling from behind to beat Asian champions Japan 24-12 in Tokyo on Sunday.


Number eight Stephen Hoiles scored four tries and reserve back Drew Mitchell a hat-trick as Australia A took Tonga to the cleaners.


The Australians, fielding seven of the current Wallabies squad, had the match won with a 43-0 lead by halftime.


Former rugby league international Timana Tahu was judged man of the match at inside centre, scoring a try and setting up six other tries to give Wallabies’ coach Robbie Deans food for thought.


Deans said he specifically requested that Tahu, who played primarily on the wing and occasionally in the centres during his injury-interrupted Super 14 campaign this year, start at inside centre.


“He did well and there’s obviously still a lot of scope for growth, but every time he plays he will be better for it,” Deans said of Tahu.


New Zealand Maori are also unbeaten after three straight wins, scoring two tries to none against winless Samoa.


Samoa prevented the New Zealanders from totally dominating the match, keeping them scoreless in the second spell but rarely looked like scoring a try themselves with few scraps of possession to play with.


Strong performances from Maori lock Jason Eaton, flanker Liam Messam and number eight Thomas Waldrom went a long way to keeping their stranglehold on the match.


The New Zealanders expect to beat Japan next week and go through to a virtual final against Australia A on July 6 in Sydney, providing the Australians beat Fiji in Brisbane next Sunday.


Fiji claimed their second win in three matches to overhaul Japan after trailing 9-3 at halftime.


Fiji, who narrowly lost to New Zealand Maori 11-7 at home a week ago, scored three converted tries in the second half in driving rain.


“We always knew it was going to be tough playing Japan in Japan,” said Fiji coach Ilie Tabua. “It was not until the final 15 minutes that the game changed.”


Disappointed Japan coach John Kirwan said: “We had ample opportunity to win today but threw the game away with errors.” In next weekend’s other game, Tonga and Samoa will be looking for their first win in the tournament.


Sapa-AFP – Rugbyweek.com

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