PRC - Comeback Kings stun Upolu
Notoriously slow starters, the Fiji Barbarians, have scored 26 unanswered points to come from behind and record their 3rd win of the 2010 IRB Pacific Nations Cup with a 36-25 victory over Upolu Samoa. The win lifts the Barbarians to the top of the PRC competition ladder and one win away from a finals berth.
Upolu Samoa, the only team yet to record a win in the tournament, started the match in superb touch and looked a completely different outfit in the 4th round clash and got the game off to a perfect start with a textbook team try by Centre Samasoni Moala in the 3rd minute.
The try came after the Upolu forwards fractured the Barbarians defence with an excellent pick and go attack, before unleashing to a backline that had superior numbers and Moala simply had to trundle over for the opening score of the match.
Barbarians fullback Jaoji Dakuvula continued his good tournament with the boot with a 50m penalty kick in the 6th minute to bring the score back to 5-3.
A penalty kick in the 12th minute to Pesamino Alauni extended Upolu's lead to 8-3 and another penalty on the 20 minute mark extended the lead further to 11-3.
The Barbarians paid a heavy price for a simple mistake soon after, when a high kick deep in to the Barbarians 22 was allowed to bounce and winger William Saukuri was monstered by the Upolu chasers who forced the penalty. Spinning the ball wide from the ensuing tap, Upolu fullback Mathew Farmer was on hand to dive over the line out wide to score the Barbarians second try. The conversion from out wide by Pesamino Alauni gave Upolu a commanding 18-3 with 26 minutes gone in the half.
The Barbarians first try of the match was scored by halfback Emosi Vucago who proved too hard to stop, carrying a number of Upolu defenders with him over the line to score. Converted by Jaoji Dakuvula, the gap closed to 18-10.
Upolu struck back with their third try shortly afterwards after solid defence caused a turnover which was cleverly toed through by Safai Mika for winger Morgan Salesa to collect and score his first try for the day. Converted by Alauni, Upolu took a 25-10 lead with 7 minutes to go in the half. Unfortunately though, and decisively, this would be the last points Upolu would score in the game.
The first try of the second half was scored by Barbarians Flanker Jasa Kadivuka after sustained pressure in the Upolu 22 allowed them to create a considerable overlap. Converted by Dakuvula, the Barbarians started their comeback, closing the gap to 17-25.
Reserve winger Lasarusa Tabu scored next for the Barbarians after Upolu flanker Levi Faamatala was sent to the bin for repeated infringements while desperately defending their line. Opting for a scrum instead of a gift three points, the ball was swung wide for Tabu to cruise over untouched. Dakuvula converted from the touch line to bring the Barbarians back within a point - 24-25 with 20 minutes to go.
Reserve Centre Sunia Vata scored next to put the Barbarians in front for the first time in the match with 8 minutes to go, and in the process brought up the bonus point, when continued ill-discipline by the Upolu team gave the Barbarians a raft of penalties.
Tabu bagged his second when he showed a clean set of heals to sprint 50m metres after regathering a neat little chip after yet another Upolu turnover, extending the lead to 36-25 with 2 minutes to go.
For Upolu there is now only pride on the line. No team has ever gone through the PRC without a victory and Upolu face the mammoth task to avoid being the first team to do so when they take on Tautahi Gold in Sigatoka on Saturday.
The Barbarians move to 15 competition points and stay well in the hunt for a spot in the final on Saturday week. But coach Peniasi Uluiviti would be concerned with his team's habit of giving the opposition teams a big lead and something that Tautahi Gold punished last week, and something that Savai'i Samoa, their opponents this Saturday in Sigatoka, will surely try to capitalise on.