A try after the final hooter has given Fijian Latui a dramatic win over Kagifa Samoa in the opening match of the Pacific Showcase Series at Churchill Park in Fiji. Fans were treated to a stunning end-to-end 70 point spectacle that kept them on the edge of their seats, with Ifereimi Tovilevu’s try wrestling back the lead for Fijian Latui in a last gasp effort.
With Global Rapid Rugby moving into the Pacific after an entertaining Asian series, anticipation was high as the competition debuted in this rugby mad part of the world. And it didn’t disappoint on any front. The free-flowing, fast moving, attacking style that Rapid Rugby encourages, and is synonymous with Pacific rugby, was on show from the opening whistle to the last.
There was no let up through the match with the lead changing six times and 10 tries scored. A length of the field breakaway Power Try in the opening half by Fijian Latui left everyone in awe, while the home side produced another spectacular scoring move in the second stanza, running the ball from 35 meters out, putting it through no less than eight sets of hands before dotting over for the try.
The visiting Kagifa Samoa side weren’t to be out done though, making a number of crucial intercepts and turning them into points. Big lock Michael McKee set the tone early as he picked off a long cut out pass to score after just three minutes had expired. Exciting back Tino Mafoe also got in on the action, reading the play beautifully to steal the ball from his opposite number late in the first half.
In all, six tries were scored in a frenetic opening half. McKee, Mafoe and Dylan Lam doing the damage for Kagifa Samoa, while John Stewart, Peni Naulago and Tuidraki Samusamuvodre crossed for Fijian Latui.
Only 12 minutes had elapsed and there were already four tries on the scoreboard. McKee getting things underway for the Samoan’s before three consecutive tries by Fijian Latui. Samusamuvodre’s Power Try finishing a devastating seven minute period which saw the home team build a 12 point lead.
The Fijian’s momentum though was brought to a thumping halt when Necani Nawaqadau and Stewart were both yellow carded for a dangerous tackle. Kagifa Samoa saw their opportunity and only a couple of minutes passed before they made the home side pay on the scoreboard. Fijian Latui did well to limit the damage to just one try before they were back to their full compliment on the field, however the run of play remained in Kagifa Samoa’s favour. A converted try as half time approached was enough to bring it back to level terms, 19 points apiece.
Second half substitute Johnny Dyer proved to be a key inclusion for the home side, scoring a great try and making a number of powerful runs that will surely put him in calculations for a starting spot next week.
But, like they did in the first half, Kagifa Samoa were able to find answers to everything thrown at them. Mafoe again making something out of nothing, this time out sprinting the Fijian defence to collect a hit and hope box kick and touching down just before flying over the dead ball line. Latiume Fosita’s conversion and a follow-up penalty goal a short time later saw the visitors up by five.
Ten minutes passed before Stewart’s second try brought the scores back level, and when Apisalome Waqatabu nailed the conversion, the home side held a slender two point advantage.
That lasted all of two minutes when Kagifa Samoa earned another penalty within kicking distance and Fosita again stepped up to nail the shot to put his side one point up with three minutes left on the clock.
Waqatabu then had his chance to be a home town hero when Fijian Latui earned a penalty of their own just 22 meters out on a slight angle, but his attempt sailed wide leaving just 90 seconds left to pull a rabbit out of the hat.
Taking back possession after a clearing kick from Kagifa Samoa to restart play, the Fijian Latui pressed hard to get back into their attacking half. There were more than a few heart in the mouth moments as the ball was swiftly moved across the field and back again.
The crowd were ready to explode when Tira Patterson Wilagi looked to have found a way through, but he was stopped five meters short with just six second to go.
With the try line tantalisingly close the home side swiftly switched play and were able to find Tovilevu on the far side of the ground. He put on the afterburners and with a winning try in sight he steamrolled a last ditch tackle to touch down in the left corner.
That ignited the Churchill Park crowd who were delirious with excitement as their side completed a remarkable 70 minutes of rugby to take the four points as well as a bonus point for scoring four or more tries.
While the win was already secured after the try, the successful conversion was important as it denied Kagifa Samoa a bonus point for finishing within five points. The visitors didn’t leave empty handed, they still managed a bonus point for their four try effort, as well as picked up plenty of admirers with their committed performance.
Rapid Rugby action continues in Fiji next week when Fijian Latui and Western Force meet on Saturday, 25 May 2019.
Starting XV: 1.Eroni MAWI, 2.Mesulame DOLOKOTO, 3.Luke TAGI, 4.Peni NAULAGO, 5.Necani NAWAQADAU, 6.Mosese VOKA(C), 7.Vasikali MUDU, 8.Timoci DAVU, 9.Jone MANU, 10.Tuidraki SAMUSAMUVODRE, 11.Lepani RAIYALA, 12.Avete DAVETA, 13.John STEWART, 14.Tira PATTERSON WILAGI, 15.Apisalome WAQATABU
Reserves: 16.Veremalua VUGAKOTO, 17.Joeli VEITAYAKI, 18.Apisai VATUBULI, 19.Filimoni SERU, 20.Johnny DYER, 21.Netava KOROISAU, 22.Enele TIKOTANI MALELE, 23.Ifereimi TOVILEVU
Starting XV: 1.Misioka TIMOTEIO, 2.Frank MALU, 3.Ausetalia VAIOMANU, 4.Michael MCKEE, 5.Matiaha MARTIN, 6.Callum ADAMS, 7.Caleb FAALILI, 8.Fotu LOKOTUI, 9.Leon FUKOFUKA(C), 10.Latiume FOSITA, 11.David FELIUAI, 12.Tino MAFOE, 13.Paki AFU, 14.Ah Mu TUIMALEALIIFANO, 15.Kalione HALA
Reserves: 25.Peter FAALILI, 24.Sevanaia ROKOTUINACEVA, 22.Taniela KOROI, 21.Dylan LAM, 20.Laisenia RAURA, 17.Siaosi NGININGINI, 18.Maui HAUSIA, 16.Jope TIKOILEPANONI
Referee: Cameron Stone, AR1: Kaveni Talemaivalagi, AR2: David Vosalevu, TMO: Johnson Lee
|3:12||M.McKee (KS)||Try||KS by 5||0 – 5|
|3:45||L.Fosita (KS)||Conversion||KS by 7||0 – 7|
|5:10||J.Stewart (FL)||Try||KS by 2||5 – 7|
|8:21||P.Naulago (FL)||Try||KS by 3||10 – 7|
|12:21||T.Samusamuvodre (FL)||Power Try||FL by 12||19 – 7|
|17:21||D.Lam (KS)||Try||FL by 7||19 – 12|
|32:44||T.Mafoa (KS)||Try||FL by 2||19 – 17|
|32:51||L.Fosita (KS)||Conversion||Tied||19 – 19|
|5:46||J.Dyer (FL)||Try||FL by 5||24 – 19|
|12:24||T.Mafoa (KS)||Try||Tied||24 – 24|
|13:11||L.Fosita (KS)||Conversion||KS by 2||24 – 26|
|17:01||L.Fosita (KS)||Penalty Goal||KS by 5||24 – 29|
|27:53||J.Stewart (FL)||Try||Tied||29 – 29|
|29:14||A.Waqatabu (FL)||Conversion||FL by 2||31 – 29|
|31:40||L.Fosita (KS)||Penalty Goal||KS by 1||31 – 32|
|35:00||I.Tovilevu (FL)||Try||FL by 4||36 – 32|
|35:00||A.Waqatabu (FL)||Conversion||FL by 6||38 – 32|