Samoa A and Fiji Warriors claim PRC wins
Samoa A set up an Australia series decider with Queensland A after having too much speed and power for the Junior Waratahs to comfortably win their IRB Pacific Rugby Cup encounter 25-5 at the Foreshaw Rugby Park in Sydney on Thursday.
The only unbeaten sides remaining in the first series of the annual competition involving the A sides of Fiji, Samoa and Tonga and the development teams of three Australian Super Rugby franchises, will come face to face at Ballymore on Monday.
Queensland A were equally convincing in their 23-8 defeat of Tonga A at the same venue and will hope to complete a hat-trick of victories over the Pacific Island nations and finish top of the Australian series.
The Samoans, though, will have other ideas and will be determined to move on to New Zealand for another three-match series full of confidence and with a perfect record of played three, won three behind them.
Samoa A were fast out of the blocks in round two, their enthusiasm rocking the Junior Waratahs with tries by full back Tupu Ulufale and flanker Iosefa Timusa in the opening six minutes establishing a 12-0 lead that was never under threat.
The Junior Tahs, who had beaten Tonga A 27-11 on Sunday, did manage to gather some momentum thanks to a series of penalties, but Samoa A soon asserted their authority, even if the score would not change until Titi Jnr Esau’s 37th minute penalty.
The home side were revitalised after the break, but they kept playing into the hands of Samoa A’s physical dominance and were punished when centre James Roache touched down, Esau adding the conversion and a penalty to push the islanders out to 25-0.
There was still time for a consolation try for the Junior Waratahs through prop Sam Talakai, but they must now regroup to face the defending champions Fiji Warriors who will be on a high after beating the Brumby Runners 16-3 on Wednesday.
The match was played in driving rain at Viking Park in Canberra and as a result was never going to be an expansive game with the two teams trading penalty shots for the first half entire first 40, accuracy being a problem in the conditions with six attempts missed.
Jonetani Ralulu edged the Warriors 6-3 ahead at the start of the second half as the tempo of the match increased with bursts from the Runners’ Matt Hawke, Kimami Sitauti and Zack Holmes, none of whom could capitalise.
For those braving the weather, a memorable side was the heavily strapped Fijian-born replacement front row Jerry Yanuyanutawa galloping 50 metres up field, but it was the Warriors who scored next when Josateki Nasilisili intercepted and raced 50 metres.
Ralulu added another penalty to wrap up the victory and leave new Fiji national coach Inoke Male delighted by the improvement the Warriors had shown since their 36-24 loss to Queensland A in round one.
“This is my first assignment for Fiji (as national coach) and so I am enjoying getting to see the best local players in action against such high quality opposition,” Male said. “Tonight was a very big improvement in our defence which was so disappointing against Queensland A.
“I was also happy with our set piece – for the past two or three years our scrum has been a weakness in Fiji and we need to improve in this area and I thought tonight we made some progress.”
The final match of the round at Ballymore involved two teams with attacking mindsets, resulting in a sideline-to-sideline encounter which suited Queensland A as they shot out to an early 10-0 lead with a Dallan Murphy penalty and conversion of Tim Buchanan’s try.
Tonga A enjoyed their best attacking opportunity of the opening half when centre Otulea Katoa raced down the right touchline and looked destined to score only for a desperate try-saving tackle by Murphy to ensure that the score remained 10-0 at the break.
Katoa finally did open Tonga A’s account within minutes of the restart with a penalty, but Queensland A made certain of their second win in the competition with tries from flanker Curtis Browning and centre Nathaniel Gendle.
Samiuela Vea did have the final say for Tonga A with a try on the final whistle, but while Murphy was delighted by the “huge improvements” they had made from the win over Fiji Warriors, Queensland A were counting the costs of injuries to Chris F’Sautia, Mitchell Felsman and Ruan Smith.