Fiji beat New Zealand Maori 27-10
SUVA, Fiji (AP) — Fiji gave the first indication of its World Cup potential when it beat a strong New Zealand Maori team 27-10 Saturday in the fist match of a two-match series.
The Maori were strengthened by the selection of a large number of players, including recent All Blacks Nathan Harris and Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, who narrowly missed selection in New Zealand’s squad for the Rugby Championship.
But Fiji played magnificent running rugby, especially in the first half, to win by four tries to two. The win was its first over New Zealand Maori since 1957 and only the eighth in 30 meetings.
“I think there’s a lot of individual talent in this team and we combined well today,” Fiji captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu said. “When we work together as a team these are the results we can achieve.”
The Fiji starting 15 contained 14 players based in Britain or Europe and they came together superbly after an intense training camp.
The Maori kicked away possession aimlessly in the first half and Fiji exploited counter-attacking opportunities, finding holes all over the Maori which missed 21 tackles. Fiji opened a 22-0 lead after 46 minutes.
The Maori rallied in the second half with two tries to winger Sean Wainui before center Waisea Nayacelevu sealed the win for Fiji with his second try.
Fiji opened the scoring with a try to Alivereti Veitokani who broke the defense off a pass from flyhalf Ben Volavola, who superbly picked up his runners.
Brilliant offloading made a try in the 32nd minute for back rower Viliami Mata.
The Maori lost flyhalf Otere Black to the sin-bin late in the first half and Fiji took advantage with the best try of the match to Nayacelevu. Volavola recovered a charged-down kick and made a break. The ball moved wide to left winger Eroni Sau who switched it back infield to Nayacelevu in a move than ranged 80 meters.
The teams meet again in Rotorua, New Zealand next weekend.
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