Warriors inflict more pain on Upolu
The Fiji Warriors have bounced back from their surprise first round loss to record their first win of the 2010 PRC with a hard-fought 24-17 win over Upolu Samoa in the final match of a PRC triple header in Lautoka this evening.
In the much anticipated replay of the 2009 Final, and with both teams losing their opening games in the 2010 tournament, both teams began the match at a furious pace and desperate to get their 2010 campaigns back on track.
Upolu got off to the perfect start with a try to hooker Andrew Williams in the 3rd minute, converted by winger Pesamino Alauni. The try came off a lineout deep in the Warriors 22, after a probing kick by 5/8 Olago Epaforoti.
Taniela Rawaqa opened the account for the Warriors soon after with a penalty. 8-3 to Upolu.
A try to Warriors hooker Tuapati Talemaitoga gave the Warriors an 8-7 lead for the first time in the match in the 30th minute.
Rawaqa capitalised on a coach-killing penalty - a late tackle which turned a promising Upolu counter - attack into a gift 3 points for the Warriors. 11-7 Warriors.
Upolu struck back to take the lead almost immediately with a try to winger Esera Lauina, on the back of a rampaging 30m charge by prop Manasa Saulo. Alauni converted from the sideline to give Upolu a deserved 14-11 lead.
The scores were levelled 14-all, three minutes into the second half with a third penalty to Rawaqa.
Rawaqa slotted his 4th penalty in the 11th minute to break the deadlock and take a 17-14 lead.
The pendulum appeared to swing once more in favour of Upolu when Epeli Ruivadra was sent to the sin-bin in the 22nd minute of the second half after referee Mounga Vea's patience ran out following a raft of repeated infringements from the Fijian's. However Upolu failed to capitalise - continually refusing to take the many opportunities to kick a penalty and instead opted to head to the touch line - yet they continued to fall short in their attempt for a try.
Warriors coach Inoke Male rang in the changes in the 25th minute of the second half and when Upolu Centre Samasoni Moala was sent to the bin with 15 minutes to go for a late tackle on outstanding former Fijian U20 halfback Nikola Matawalu, the Warriors appeared to lift up a gear.
With both teams down to 14 men, it was the Warriors who capitalised with a try to reserve prop Apisalome Ratuniyarawa. Rawaqa converted from the side to give the Warriors a 24-14 lead.
A penalty to Pesamino Alauni brought Upolu back within seven points in the closing stages, but 24-17 was all that Upolu could muster and despite a final desperate rally, they were unable to steal a draw.
The 2009 finalists thus find themselves winless after 2 rounds and have all the work to do if they are to feature in the business end of the competition. Certainly the bonus point will come in handy in that regard. For the Warriors, halfback Matawalu was a revelation and will have certainly attracted the interest of National coach Samu Domoni with his menacing runs around the fringe of the rucks and also, in fact especially, in open play. If he maintains this form he could well be the find of the tournament.