Fiji too strong for Tonga in final World Cup warm-up

By RNZ

Fiji rounded out their preparations for the Rugby World Cup with a 29-19 victory over Tonga in the second game of the Pasifika Challenge in Auckland on Saturday.

‘Ikale Tahi captain Siale Piutau opened the scoring with a third minute try but Fiji capitalised on a Tongan error six minutes later to launch a long-range raid that ended in Josua Tuisova scoring to level the match at 7-7.

Tongan hooker Paula Ngauamo scored through an impressive rolling maul to put the kingdom back in front midway through the first half but despite having close to 90 percent possession in the opening quarter, Tonga were unable to convert most of that pressure into points. It was Fiji who pounced on another turnover four minutes later as Vereniki Goneva scored another thrilling try against the run of the play to tie the match at 12-12.

The Flying Fijians then scored either side of half-time, through former sevens star Semi Kunatani, who impressed throughout, and captain Dominko Waqaniburotu.

The 12 point buffer was extended when hooker Sam Matavesi scored Fiji’s fifth try of the day before the hour mark.

To complete a fine day for hookers, replacement Sefo Sakalia scored for Tonga early in the final quarter to close the deficit back to 12 points but Fiji’s defence held firm for the rest of the match.

Flying Fijian coach John McKee said it was an area where they performed very strongly.

“We knew we were in for a physical encounter and certainly we got that,” he said.

“I thought our defensive effort tonight was very good. We worked very hard in defence – in our phase defence and our goal-line defence at times – so that aspect of our game was for me very positive.

“I thought there was some good individual tackling as well so that worked well for us,” McKee said.

Tongan coach Toutai Kefu was pleased with the way his team started the match but said a string of turnovers and a failure to execute on attack proved too much to overcome.

“Turnovers killed us today,” he lamented post-match.

“I think we got about 15 turnovers so just being a little bit more clinical in attack, making better options (and) probably executing some simple stuff as well,” Kefu said.

“Bar probably three or four moments there we could have been 18-0 up but we made a few mistakes, they got two easy turnover tries but that’s Fiji.

“I thought there was enough good there to keep pressing on and enough there to keep the group positive.”

Tonga will announce their Rugby World Cup squad on Monday and Kefu said the coaching staff were still sorting through some of the final selections.

“We’ve got a squad of 33 so we’ll drop two out and we’ll just discuss like at the moment we’ve got nine front-rowers so we might even discuss whether we take one less and gamble on the props to allow maybe another back to come in so we’ll have those discussions later.”


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