Manu Samoa has clinched the Pacific Nations Cup title coming from a 17-3 deficit in the first half to beat the Vodafone Flying Fijians 23-20 in Lautoka.
It was a physical match in front of a good crowd at Churchill Park, Fiji playing for pride while Samoa for glory and the PNC title.
The visitors got off to a perfect start with Rodney Iona booting the first penalty in the 13th minute.
This was on the back of some good defending by Samoa after Fiji unleashed waves of attack in the first few minutes.
A few minutes later, Fiji hit back through number 8 Albert Tuisue who crashed over for a try after a quick tap from the 5 meter line.
Ben Volavola added the extras for the side to lead 7-3.
Fiji further extended its lead in the 30th minute, a solo try by halfback Frank Lomani – darting from the base of the scrum to beat 4 Samoan players.
Just before the break, Volavola kicked a penalty as Fiji led 17-3.
In the second half, Samoa were first on the board again, as hooker Ray Niuia got the side’s first try through a rolling maul.
Iona added the two points from out wide to close the gap.
The next few minutes, the two sides exchanged penalties, with Fiji still in the lead 20-13.
Samoa then closed the gap through the boot of Iona after the hosts were penalized before they finally took the lead for the first time through Niuia who had been at the heart of the visitors maul.
Fly-half Iona kicked the conversion to make it a 3 point ball game.
Fiji had the last roll of the dice, launching an attack from inside Samoa’s territory but they were not able to break the visitors defence as Samoa held on to remain unbeaten.
Samoa Captain Michael Ala’alatoa says it took an 80minute effort to get the win.
“We know the Fijians are world class and he showed that in the first half. They put a lot of pressure on our set piece specially the scrum time. I’m so proud of our boys to hang deep, in the past we would have lost those games.”
Disappointed Flying Fijians Captain Waisea Nayacalevu knows their performance could have been better.
“We have to build from that, learn from our mistake. We have talked about it all week that hey are going to come hard and it was going to be physical, but we left our shield down.”
This is also the first time for Samoa to beat Fiji in the PNC competition.