Fiji and Moana Pasifika win in first round of Oceania Rugby U20s Challenge

Tue, Feb 27, 2024, 10:56 AM
by Oceania Rugby

The Oceania Rugby U20s Challenge got off to a roaring start at North Harbour Stadium, with the Junior Moana Pasifika and the Fiji U20s securing victories in Round One.

Fans came out in large numbers to support their teams, providing a vibrant atmosphere with perfect conditions that made for an entertaining night of rugby.

Moana Pasifika U20s defeated Junior Manu Samoa 27-20.

The Junior Manu Samoa and Moana Pasifika U20s went head-to-head in the first match, in what was a thrilling tit-for-tat contest. 

Both sides came out strong, with the Junior Manu Samoa charging over the line for the first try of the tournament.

The Moana Pasifika U20s bounced back with a try of their own, off a superb cross kick. By halftime, the score was levelled at 10 a piece.

Moana Pasifika made a statement in the second half, pushing the score to 24-10.

But Samoa weren’t fazed, starting their comeback with a try in the 67th minute, closing the gap 24-17 thanks to a sensational try from Christopher Afamasaga. 

With 12 minutes to go, some ill discipline from Moana Pasifika saw the Junior Manu Samoa take advantage with a successful penalty kick, closing the gap to just four points. 

Just when the momentum started to swing the way of Samoa, Moana Pasifika were rewarded for their patience and discipline late in the game. 

A penalty kick by Moana’s fly-half Tyler Pulini with six minutes to go made Samoa’s job tougher. 

Moana’s relentless defence right until the final whistle proved the difference, holding on for the win despite conceding penalties and a yellow card in the final minutes.  

The two sides now look ahead to Round Two, with a big opportunity looming for Samoa. 

The winner between them and Tonga in Saturday’s matchup will qualify for the World Rugby U20s Trophy in July in Scotland. It’s an opportunity Samoa has circled on their calendar.

With only a handful of training runs  under their belt, Moana Pasifika was pleased to put up a winning performance.

“I’m proud of the boys, we’ve only been together for two weeks, and to come against this side is a blessing,” Moana Pasifika Captain John Samielu said.

“Big ups to the Samoan team, it’s not everyday you get to go up against an International squad.”

Fiji U20s beat Junior Ikale Tahi 39-25.

Fiji showed why they’re going to be hard to beat in this competition, dominating with their lethal speed and flamboyance. 

The Fijians came out with a solid attacking effort in the opening minutes, not wasting any time with an early try from flanker Ebenezer Navula.

Tonga responded with a penalty goal and showed their physicality while trying to disrupt the Fijian attack. 

But Fiji took over with their athleticism and running prowess, a tough task for Tonga to contain.

Their forward pack continued to lead from the front, with Number 8 Rupeni Nakiyoyo and Hooker Joshua Uluibau each scoring in the first 40 minutes. Fiji ended the first half up 29-3. 

The Ikale Tahi relished the loud and proud support from their fans, making a fierce comeback in the second half that startled Fiji with three consecutive tries in the first 10 minutes. 

Suddenly the score was 27-22, and the match turned into a slugfest, with either side equally capable of coming out on top. 

Fiji earned a penalty and pushed the margin out to ten. They continued to chip away, applying pressure on the spirited Tongan defence.

In the end,Fiji were too good for the Ikale Tahi who went down 39-25. 

Fiji Captain Nalani May said: "We try to keep them guessing, keep them on their heels, and play the Fijian style."

"We definitely got caught off guard in the second half, but we just regrouped on the field, and stayed together."

Tonga Captain Siasofi Tohi said his team is now focused on their next challenge against Samoa. "We need to improve in our contact, and we need to help the defence out, a lot to work on for Saturday's game." 

Fiji take on Moana Pasifika in Round Two on Saturday, March 2, at 3.30 p.m. local time. 

Follow all the action @oceaniarugby & @moanapasifika on social for more information.