Fiji claims Oceania U-20 title

March 6, 2024 8:44 pm

[Source: Oceania Rugby]

The Fiji Under-20 side defeated Samoa 31-17 to claim the Oceania Rugby Championship title in Auckland.

Despite finishing the game with 13-men, the national side had enough in the tank to deny a spirited comeback from Samoa.

Fullback Tevita Sovau scored the opening try for Fiji in the second minute after a break by flyhalf Aisea Nawai from the halfway line.

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Nawai added the conversion for an early 7-0 lead.

Fiji continued to mount pressure on the Samoan line before loose forward Rupeni Nakiyoyo burrowed over the try line in the 14th minute.

Nawai added the conversions for a 14-0 lead.

Samoa regrouped with a try by their left winger Panaua Niulevaea, who touched down on a neat chip kick by their skipper and fullback Wally Vesi to trail Fiji 14-5 at halftime.

Fiji started the second half just like the first, creating phases and numerous offloads before they were rewarded with a try to replacement back, Anare Tabakaucoro, with a neat assist from halfback, Philip Baselala as the national side extended its lead to 19-5.

Fiji were on a roll again, heaping more pressure on their opponents but were caught napping when a wayward pass was intercepted by Niulevaea for his second try of the night to close the margin to 19-12.

A rolling maul from a lineout saw Fiji extend its lead to 24-12 with a try to hooker Josh Uluibau and Nawai added the conversion from the side-line for a 26-12 lead.

Fiji was then reduced to 14 men when replacement prop Matai Tuisireli was sin binned for a high tackle.

Fiji’s big forwards continued to dominate in the set pieces and lock Nemani Kurucake made a break before offloading to blindside flanker Ebenezer Navula for a try.

Nawai missed the conversion as Fiji stretched its lead to 31-12.

As the clock ticked down the final 10 minutes, tensions rose as Fijian centre Sivaniolo Lumelume received a yellow card for a dangerous tackle on his opposite number, which led to a melee between the two sides.

Samoa scored another try to their skipper Vesi to end the match 31-17 in Fiji’s favour.