PRC - Warriors stun Savai'i to win second in a row
The Fiji Warriors have scored their second win of the PRC with a resounding 42-20 victory over Savai'i Samoa in their third round clash this afternoon in Lautoka.
The defending champions were always in control of the match and although Savai'i never gave up and they were never able to catch up after the opening three-try onslaught by the Warriors. The Warriors simply dominated possession and territory in the first half, and consequently, provided their dangerous backline a wealth of attacking opportunities.
The Warriors' win was built on the back of some superb individual performance and in particular, hooker Tuapati Talemaitoga, winger Paula Tiko and outstanding young halfback Nikola Matawalu who is having a huge tournament and is surely staking his claim for a test jersey in front of National Coach Samu Domoni.
Matawalu scored the first try of the match with a brilliant solo effort - weaving through the Savai'i defence after a bullocking run by hooker Tuapati Talemaitoga, to score under the posts. Converted by Taniela Rawaqa, the Warriors jumped to an early 7-0 lead.
Warriors captain Dale Tonawai found himself in support of a break by Paula Tika to score in the right corner. Rawaqa slotted the conversion from touch to give the Warriors a 14-0 lead in the 28th minute.
Tonawi and Tika combined again almost immediately off the restart after yet another piece of brilliance by halfback Matawalu set them 60 metres down the right flank - this time it was Tika who applied the finishing touch, scoring under the posts. Converted again by Rawaqa the Warriors skipped away to a 21-0 lead.
Henry Bryce crossed for Savai'i's first try right on the stroke of half time to bring the score to 21-5 as the teams headed to the sheds at the break.
Savai'i was the first team to score in the second half when Ofisa Faauma kicked a penalty. Warriors still leading 21-8.
The Warriors brought up the bonus point midway through the second half when Jimilai Naikadawa charged down an Upolu clearing kick and re-gathered to touch down under the posts. Rawaqa's conversion gave the Fijian's a 28-8 lead.
Savai'i responded with a try to winger David Masoe which brought the score to 28-13 to the Warriors.
Second Rower Apisalome Ratuniyarawa was the next to touch down for the Warriors. The conversion by Rawaqa gave the Warriors a 35-13 lead.
Savai'i fullback responded for Savai'i with a try under the posts after a well executed team try on the back of a strong charge by tireless prop Naama Leleimalefaga. The conversion by Ted Sikovi brought the scores to 35-20 to the Warriors with 10 minutes to go.
Reserve Waisale Vatuvoka erased any hopes of a fightback by Savai'i when he took a quick penalty tap from 5 metres out and dived over the line and when it was converted by Rawaqa, the Warriors had an unassailable 42-20 lead. Despite a desperate late push for a fourth try that would have earned Savai'i a crucial bonus point, the Warriors defence held firm.
"In our first match we didn't listen to the coaches and didn't follow the game plan" said Warriors Vice Captain, Taniela Rawaqa. "But now we're listening and following the game plan and we're confident that we can defend the title".
The Warrior's next match is against Tautahi Gold while Savai'i take on the Tau'uta Reds on Tuesday in Nadi.