Fiji pip Japan in last gasp PNC thriller

A converted try in the dying seconds clinched a last gasp 40-39 win for Fiji over Japan in a Pacific Nations Cup thriller on Friday.

Number eight Netani Talei powered through the despairing tackles of the Japanese defence to force the ball down and present inside centre Seremaia Bai with a simple conversion attempt to secure the one-point win.

The victory in the final match of the five-nation series lifted Fiji above Samoa into second place — their best ever finish — behind the Junior All Blacks in the round robin competition.

Japan came within a whisker of their first ever win over Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup, but instead they finished fourth ahead of Tonga in their highest ever placing.

Fiji’s win, their third from four matches in the series, means they hold on to their ninth ranking in the world and Japan remain at 14.

What Japan’s forwards lost in size to the big Fijians, they made up for with better organisation.

They dominated the breakdown and scored three tries from driving mauls, narrowly missing another in the opening minute of the match when the ball was spilled over the line.

The visitors scored five tries to four but the reliable boot of Bai ensured the Fijian victory, kicking 20 points from four penalties and four conversions.

Japan dominated the opening minutes, scoring a try through flanker Toetuu Taufa who surged over from a breakdown near the line.

Winger Jack Tarrant collected a big cutout pass from inside centre to extend the Japanese lead 17 minutes into the spell, against an unusually passive Fiji.

But the Fijians hit back in the second quarter with characteristic counter-attacking tries to Memia Kenetale and outside centre Vereniki Goneva to go into halftime with a 20-14 lead.

Japan’s hooker Yusuke Aoki scored twice in almost identical fashion within the first eight minutes of the second half as Japan’s well-drilled pack mauled the Fijians back over their line from lineouts.

Fiji seemed destined for defeat at 36-26 down with just seven minutes remaining, but replacement forward Sireli Ledua was on hand to finish a big break down the middle of the field started by Goneva.

Another James Arlidge penalty gave Japan a six-point lead but repeated attacks on their line by Fiji’s pack in the final minute ended in Talei’s winning try.

For Japan, Ryan Nicholas kicked two conversions, with Arlidge taking over in the second spell with two conversions and two penalties.

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