The Fiji Water Flying Fijians claimed their third consecutive Pacific Nations Cup, beating Japan 35 – 12 at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Japan last night.
In doing so Fiji is also taking home the Lipovitan D Challenge Cup, the coveted trophy for the PNC.
The physicality of the Fijians was prominent right from the first whistle, and a quick turnover in the ruck led to a breakaway try to Waisea Nayacalevu just three minutes into the game.
Unfortunately early on, Fiji’s inside center Vilimoni Botitu was hit by a head high tackle and left the field.
Japan openside flanker Pieter Labuschagne was red carded after that dangerous play and his team had to play with 14 men for the remainder of the game.
The scrums were good for Fiji. The forwards packed hard, and coordinated well to win almost every feed in. Loosehead prop Eroni Mawi and Luke Tagi were solid in the front row.
Mawi scored Fiji’s second try after a series of ‘pick and go’ plays.
Lanky forward Meli Derenalagi was on top of his game once again. He was brutal in the tackles and fearless with his take up balls.
Fiji found great rhythm in the lineouts where Derenalagi was king of the ariel battle. Japan just could not seem to counter the young Fijian loose-man.
Halfback Simione Kuruvoli scored Fiji’s third try right beneath the uprights to see Fiji lead 21 – 0 at halftime.
Fiji continued to pile on the pressure in the second half, with replacement halfback Frank Lomani scoring two more tries to add to the scoreboard.
Fly-half Ben Volavola was in charge of the kicking duties. Volavola kicked 4 successful conversions but missed an attempted penalty goal.
Teti Tela (who replaced Botitu) kicked the last conversion to bring the final score to 35 – 12.
Fiji had the opportunity to score more tries but they were denied three consecutive times by the TMO’s (Television Match Officials).
Ironically, Japan’s two tries were scored by the two Fijian players in their squad, Semisi Masirewa and Jone Naikabula.
Meanwhile, Samoa defeated Tonga in Apia, 34 – 9 this weekend to finish second overall in this year’s Pacific Nations Cup.
We can really see the positive returns in our Pacific teams as they prepare for the Rugby World Cup in France this coming September.