The World Rugby U20 Trophy 2018 final will be an all-Pacific Islands affair with Samoa and Fiji meeting to not only determine the champion but also the side who will be promoted to the U20 Championship next year.
Fiji stand between Samoa and a third World Rugby U20 Trophy success following a thrilling final day of pool action in Bucharest, Romania, on Wednesday.
Samoa have won every single match they have played in this competition but that proud record will be severely tested in the final against their fellow Pacific Islanders on Sunday.
The Samoans overcame a half-time deficit to beat Namibia 41-28 in the opening match of the day and secure top spot in Pool A.
Fiji, meanwhile, trailed Canada until the 66th minute but a late flurry of tries saw them home, sealing Pool B spoils and condemning their opponents to a third straight defeat, this time 53-26.
The last time these two teams met was at the 2017 Oceania Rugby U20s Championships where Samoa were the victors 39-29 in a lead changing event filled game (picture right). Fiji will be looking to redeem themselves and gain promotion in Romania this weekend.
Namibia will play Portugal in the third-place play-off following an impressive 26-15 victory over Uruguay, while the defeated South Americans will face Hong Kong for fifth place after the Asian side beat Romania 56-33 in the final match of the day.
The hosts will play fellow Canada on Sunday with both sides hoping to end the tournament on a high with their first victory.
POOL A: Samoa 41 – 28 Namibia
Hooker Tim Lilomaiava gave Samoa the perfect start in their winner-takes-all clash with Namibia in Pool A as he finished off a fine team move within two minutes, beating the defender powerfully in the right corner.
The lead lasted less than five minutes, however, as Namibia hooker Jan Basson emulated his opposite number and a rare Denzo Bruwer miss from the conversion kept the scores level.
A nip and tuck half developed, Alex Tavita crossing for the second Samoan try before Bruwer and Simon Toleafoa traded penalties.
Momentum swung the African side’s way in the 33rd minute when Toleafoa was sent to the sin-bin. Namibia took full advantage, full-back Chad Plato scoring his side’s second try before another Bruwer penalty gave them a 18-15 half-time lead.
A third followed less than a minute after the restart, but when fly-half Toleafoa converted Sione Young Yen’s 49th-minute try Samoa took a lead they would not relinquish.
Wesley Patu and Pio Fuiono both crossed before the hour mark to stretch Samoa’s advantage to 13 points and break their opponents’ resolve.
Namibia rang the changes but it had little effect, Shammah-Anthony Solomona scored his side’s sixth try and even after Austin Faamausili had been shown a yellow card there was little respite.
But with Frank Sio and Sipaia Fetu taking the tally of sin-binned Samoans to four late on, Namibia grabbed a third try as replacement prop Gerhard Opperman touched down.
POOL B: FIJI 53-26 CANADA
Ahead of the tournament Canada coach Jeff Williams admitted his side could play to their potential yet lose all three of their Pool B games. His words proved prophetic in Bucharest.
Canada led from the ninth minute until the 66th, and Fiji needed seven tries in the closing 25 minutes to seal victory. But that will matter little to the Pacific Islanders, who set up a final against traditional rivals Samoa on Sunday.
Having lost in agonising fashion to both Portugal and Uruguay, Canada started brightly on day three and built a 10-point lead as a Will Percillier penalty was supplemented by a smart try from Brandon Schellenberger.
Fiji hit back almost immediately as Ilikena Vudogo stepped off his wing and set up Lekima Nasamila to score under the posts in the 25th minute.
It looked as though it could prove a telling intervention, especially as Canadia’s fast start had taken its toll – the whole of their front row was replaced within the opening 27 minutes.
But after another Percillier penalty, and with replacement prop Apakuki Naivanawalu in the sin-bin, Schellenberger scampered over from close range to score his second try and give the North Americans a 20-7 half-time lead.
Forty minutes from a famous win Canada began the second half in the ascendancy and came within inches of a third try in the 49th minute as they camped on the Fijian line. Their opponents held out and it would prove a pivotal defensive stand.
Vilimoni Botitu kick-started the comeback within six minutes as he scored a wonderful solo try and although a Brenning Prevost penalty edged the Canadian lead to seven, just after the hour mark Fiji captain Saimoni Uluinakauvadra helped push Tevita Ikanivere over the try line.
Prevost’s second penalty minutes later looked like a plaster on a gaping wound and so it proved. Botitu turned provider as his audacious offload found Nabetelevu Turaganivalu on the right wing to score, and with the scores now level Fiji put their foot on the accelerator.
In the final 13 minutes they scored a further five tries as Simione Kuruvoli, Viliame Suwawa, Vudogo, Turaganivalu and Botitu all beat increasingly weary Canadian tackles.
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results from the other matches:
Pool B: Potugal 26 – 15 Uruguay
Pool A: Romania 33- 56 Hong Kong