No splitting Pacific Island rivals

The first match of the day at Bonney Field was a battle for Pacific pride and one that went right down to the wire, Samoa replacement Patrick Fa’apale kicking a 78th–minute penalty to secure a 30-30 draw with Fiji.

Fiji and Samoa had both won their opening Pacific Nations Cup matches last weekend, against Tonga and USA respectively, and it was a typical encounter between two Pacific Island nations, each hungry for a morale-boosting victory as the countdown to RWC 2015 continues.

Michael Stanley kicked Samoa into an early lead and after their captain Alesana Tuilagi had lost the ball forward on the line, the Flying Fijians came storming back with two tries in quick succession, both through second-row Leone Nakarawa to lead 12-3.

Samoa, the higher ranked of the two nations, responded just before the end of the first quarter, centre Paul Perez dotting down, but it was Fiji who went at half-time leading 17-10 after full-back Metuisela Talebula scored his side’s third try late in the half.

Within two minutes of the restart that lead had grown to 24-10 after centre Gabiriele Lovobalavu had jinked his way over the line and a penalty by Ben Volavola left Samoa with work to do with half an hour remaining.

The recovery began when prop Anthony Perenise popped up on the wing to score Samoa’s second try and then just past the hour mark, the ball came back from a maul and Perez stepped his way through three players to race over the line but once again Stanley missed the conversion.

With seven minutes to go Samoa secured the try bonus point when a series of pick and go’s finally saw flanker TJ Ioane crash over the line, Stanley finding his kicking boots to tie the scores at 27-27.

The momentum was Samoa’s after three unanswered tries but instead it was Fiji who hit the front again with 76 minutes on the clock, Volavola kicking a penalty that looked like it would be the match-winner until Fa’apale had the final say to Samoa’s relief.