Fijiana win Oceania Rugby Womens Championship in a thriller

Sun, Jul 17, 2022, 12:19 PM
Oceania Rugby
by Oceania Rugby

Fiji def. Samoa (31-24)

Fiji captured the 2022 Oceania Rugby Womens Championship title with a hard-fought win against Samoa, scoring on the final play to claim victory.

Raijieli Laqeretabua’s try opened the scoring for the Fijiana in the 16th minute, but the Manusina brought the margin back to two with Cassie Siataga’s penalty goal. Minutes later, the Fijiana extended their lead to seven with a try to Ilisapeci Delaiwau on the wing.

With 10 minutes to go in the first half, Samoa went down a player after Nina Foaese was sent off for a dangerous tackle, but that did not slow down the Manusina, who scored two penalty goals to draw within one.

Foaese returned from the bin just before halftime and as Samoa began to pressure Fiji’s line Vani Arei was sent off for a cynical penalty.

After a strong scrum on the right wing, the ball went wide quickly to Linda Fiafia who scored on the left to give Samoa their first lead. Siataga converted from the sideline to end the half 16-10.

Fiji was the first to score in the second half through Akosita Ravato in the 47th minute as Vitalina Naikore converted to retake the lead.

Ten minutes later the Manusina were back in front with Michele Curry scoring in the corner. Siataga missed her first shot at goal, leaving the score line 21-17.

In attempting to stop Curry’s try, Naikore recklessly went high and was sent off, but just like Samoa in the first half, being a player down did not phase the Fijiana, who took back the lead minutes later through Mereoni Vonosere, with Merewalesi Rokouono’s conversion giving Fiji a three-point advantage.

Siataga converted her fourth penalty to draw level, as Naikore returned to the field with 11 minutes to go.

With scores remaining level as the final siren blew, the Fijiana just needed to kick the ball out to win the championship on points difference, but in true Fiji style they continued to play, marching into the 22 which allowed Vitalina Mirini to fend off Manusina captain Sima Pauaraisa and score the match winner.

Fiji claimed their third Oceania Rugby Womens Championship title after victories in 2016 and 2018.

Fiji (31) Tries: Delaiwau, Laqeretabua, Mirini, Ravato, Vonosere Conversions: Naikore, Rokouono, Vosadrau

Samoa (24) Tries: Curry, Fiafia Conversions: Siataga Penalty Goals: Siataga (4)

Tonga def. Papua New Guinea (108-7)

In the earlier match, Tonga secured a record 101-point win against Papua New Guinea. Their previous biggest winning margin was 36 against PNG at the 2018 Championships.

Tonga got off to a flying start with halfback Lu’isa Pita scoring two minutes in. Papua New Guinea’s defence managed to hold out the Tongans for 10 minutes before Mele Hufanga slipped past multiple defenders to score her first try.

Two more tries to Tonga extended their lead to 24-0, but sustained pressure from Papua New Guinea resulted in multiple penalties in the Tongan 22.

After 184 minutes of being held scoreless captain Bibiana Paloa finally crossed over the line to score the Cassowaries’ first points of the championship.

Unfortunately, Tonga hit back immediately through Mafi Faukafa and went on to score three more tries to end the half 48-7.

The Tongan barrage continued in the second half with Loketi Mahoni scoring her second try in the opening minute.

Papua New Guinea’s defence began to fall apart as every time Tongan captain Hufanga touched the ball she would break the line and accelerate down the field to either set up or score a try herself.

Sokopeti ‘Akau’ola completed her hat-trick in the 77th minute to bring up the century, collecting a pop-up pass from Mahoni, who was a metre away from scoring her own hat-trick.

The final try was scored in the 79th minute when Hufanga collected a midfield chip kick from Malia Tova to blast past the PNG defenders en route to her fourth try.

Hufanga and Tova finished the match having scored 43 of Tonga’s 108 points. In Tonga’s eight previous test matches, the Fuifuilupe had only scored a combined 147 points.

Tonga (108) Tries: Hufanga (4), ‘Akau’ola (3), Ma’ake (2), Mahoni (2), Manumu’a (2), Faukafa, Hifo, Hopoi, Pita, Tova Conversions: Tova (9)

Papua New Guinea (7) Tries: Paloa Conversions: Aihi