Fiji beats Samoa 26-16 to win Pacific Nations Cup
SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Flyhalf Seremaia Bai kicked 16 points as Fiji came from behind to beat Samoa 26-16 on Saturday and clinch victory in rugby’s Pacific Nations Cup.
Fiji trailed 16-3 approaching halftime but a try to captain Sunia Koto just before the break closed the gap to six points and began a comeback which gained strength throughout the second half.
The veteran Bai kicked two penalties to draw the teams level at 16-16 after 46 minutes, then nudged Fiji ahead for the first time at 19-16 in the 63rd minute. Fiji then clinched its win with a try to Highlanders winger Patrick Osborne two minutes before fulltime.
Bai added the conversion to finish with six goals from six attempts.
Samoa rocked Fiji with a bold beginning, though the home side took the lead with Bai’s first penalty after only two minutes.
Flyhalf Tusi Pisi equalized for Samoa and missed a penalty and dropped goal before finding his range and adding two further penalties for a 9-3 lead after 28 minutes.
Hurricanes hooker Motu Matu’u scored the first try from a well-worked lineout move to give Samoa a commanding 16-3 lead as Fiji struggled to match the visitors’ intensity in the contest for possession.
Koto drove through the Samoa defense from close range for the try that turned the tide of the game. Fiji came out with far more energy in the second half, shored up its scrum and commanded more than 70 percent of possession after halftime.
It still struggled to break down Samoa’s defense and relied on Bai’s unerring boot until Osborne broke through for the late try that clinched the match.
“We were quite disappointed with our first half play,” Koto said. “We tried to start off well compared to last week but it wasn’t to be.
“Samoa came in hard in the first 20 minutes, they rattled us and we were not settling into our system. But luckily, same as last week, we regrouped and we trusted the system, held the ball more and played our game. The result is the win.”
Fiji wins the Pacific Nations Cup thanks to its back-to-back wins over Tonga and Samoa who meet in the tournament’s final match next weekend.
Earlier, Georgia scored a try after the final hooter to beat Tonga 23-20 after drawing 19-19 in its previous match against Samoa.
Tonga led 20-16 through a try to Sione Anga’aelangi with minutes left but Georgia pressured Tonga’s line in stoppage time and snatched a late match-winner.
Fiji 26 (Sunia Koto, Patrick Osborne tries; Seremaia Bai 2 conversions, 4 penalties), Samoa 16 (Motu Matuu try; Tusi Pisi conversion, 3 penalties). HT: 10-16.