Naitasiri has successfully defended the Inkk Farebrother trophy but Northland is the story from the challenge following their 6-10 loss at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori.
Many never saw that coming, some may say it wasn’t part of the script but the Manu Laqai captained team is the best challenger out of the five teams who have tried to wrestle the prestigious title from Naitasiri.
Former Ratu Kadavulevu School Under-18 halfback Jovilisi Taraka registered the first points of the match with a successful penalty in the fifth minute for a 3-0 lead to the challengers.
Northland had looked to be the better side for over 22 minutes in the first half but they failed to convert all those possession into points.
The brave defensive effort from the Ilaitia Tuisese coached side kept Northland at bay but during a rare moment in their opponent’s half in the 30th minute, Kini Douglas managed to slot a penalty with the two teams locked at 3-all.
Naitasiri’s lineouts and scrums looked ordinary today, they were a shadow of the team that had defended the trophy on four occasions and their woes continue when flanker Tomasi Naiduki was sent off for 10 minutes for dangerous play.
Manu Laqai, Livai Ikanikoda, prop Immanuel Naciva and flanker Talatala Tokaibai were impressive for Northland with Taraka sound at the back.
Naitasiri missed Etonia Rokotuisawa’s long-ranging kicks which was an advantage for them in the last seven rounds while Northland never looked like a side that’s fighting for its spot in Skipper Cup next season.
Taraka missed two penalty attempts while Douglas failed to hit the mark on one occasion as the score remained 3-all at halftime.
It was not going right for the hillmen after lock forward Marika Natau copped a yellow card in the 45 minutes for a high tackle.
Former Northland reps Josua Yavala, Inoke Ravuiwasa and Uraia Torau couldn’t find their way through the spirited and brave men from the north of Tailevu.
The Naitasiri fans were quite but finally found their voice in the 66th minute when replacement lock Sitiveni Kaila barged over for a try and converted by Douglas.
Northland’s cause suffered a major blow when their hooker was shown a red card in the 71st minute for punching in the ruck but Ilimeleki Leiloma put them back in the game when he nailed a penalty in the 73rd minute as they trailed 6-10.
In other matches, at Thompson Park in Navua, Namosi drew 15-all with Tailevu and Nadi defeated Rewa 25-15.
Yesterday, Suva defeated Nadroga 26-19 at Lawaqa Park.