With the title already theirs, Fiji Warriors brought this year’s IRB Pacific Rugby Cup to a close with a 25-16 win over Tonga A.
A scrappy yet fiercely contested match enthralled the vocal 5000-plus crowd, including the King of Tonga, His Majesty King Tupou VI, at Nuku’alofa’s Teufaiva Stadium, with Fiji Warriors laying the foundations for victory in the first half.
The game, played in perfect conditions, was characterised more by brutal defence than attacking flair, and Tonga A struggled to break the well-organised Warriors’ line.
A try apiece for Warriors wingers Maikeli Mocetadra and Manueli Gade, plus a penalty and conversion by fly half Kolinio Vunaki, gave them a 15-0 lead at the break.
Inspired by royalty
However, Tonga, inspired by the royal presence, fought back to outscore the visitors 16-10 in the second half.
Tonga A worked their way back into contention at 18-13 through the boot of full-back Setaleki Lu’au and a try by Number 8 Lotu Filipine.
However, Fiji soon showed the class that had been evident throughout this tournament, with a converted try by Number 8 Nemani Nagusa allowing them to pull away to 25-13. Tonga added another penalty before full time.
The Pacific Rugby Cup was presented to the Fijian Warriors captain, Leone Nakarawa, by Tonga’s King Tupou VI.
Warriors coach Sale Sorovaki said: “I was wary that we were playing in front of the King because I know what it means for the Tongan players and how it lifts them.
“I had the honour of playing in front of the King here for Fiji and it really inspired the Tongans so I had to make sure that our boys were ready for everything this afternoon.
Good test of depth
“I was happy that we won the game and finished the Pacific Leg undefeated. It is a relatively inexperienced team with quite a few changes from the team that toured Australia and New Zealand so it was a good test of the depth of our academy program.”
The last of three fixtures held in Tonga concluded a tournament that had already taken in stages in Australia and New Zealand.
Fiji Warriors’ colours were lowered only once, in their first game against Queensland, and they since registered seven matches undefeated.