Manu Samoa draws with Fiji in thrilling Pacific Nations Cup Test match

Manu Samoa came back from a 17-10 half time deficit to tie their Round 2 match against Fiji 30-30, at Bonney Field, Sacramento tonight.

Playing in 32 degree (Celcius) heat, both teams were looking for the upper hand early but it was Fiji who scored two quick tries both to lock Leone Nakarawa, in the first 15 minutes.  Manu Samoa responded soon after when centre Paul Perez dotted down following quick hands and a great break from Michael Stanley.

Fiji’s pressure in the Samoan half and a couple of key mistackles from Samoa finally rewarded Fiji with a try to fullback Metuisela Talebula who finished off some slick Fijian running and passing to stretch over the line for a five-pointer just before half time.

Samoa came back with a vengeance in the second half, despite Fiji scoring first with midfielder Gabby Lovobalavu making easy work of Samoa’s last defence.

Ten minutes into the second half Samoa were trailing 27-10, but then Samoa regrouped and their patience paid off when they finally managed to get the ball out wide where prop Anthony Perenise was the last receiver who banked the points.

From the kickoff Samoa earned a series of penalties which resulted in a maul and then Perez, who was in outstanding form, wrong footed several defenders to dot down on the 62nd minute.

With the Fijians now within reach and 15 minutes to play, the Manu’s desperation at the breakdown and solid go forward play, resulted in standout loose forward TJ Ioane scoring a well-deserved try.  Stanley converted to level the scores at 27-apiece.

The tension continued as first Volavola, then replacement first five Patrick Faapale, nailed respective penalties in the dying minutes of the game.

Coach Stephen Betham said:  “The boys showed a lot of character today.  And we’re happy with the way they stood up.  But still we’ve got a lot of work to do as we look to Canada next week.

“It was definitely the hard way to do it, as Fiji found their rhythm early in that first half.  It was like last week a game of two halves.   The boys had a slow start – a lot of mistakes in the first half and a few loose balls we should have dived on.   The Fijians are known for their flair and we gave that up in the first half.  But credit to the boys they came back in the second half,” Betham said.

Tries: Paul Perez 2, Anthony Perenise, TJ Ioane
Pen:  Mike Stanley, Patrick Faapale
Con:  Stanley 2

Tries: Leone Nakarawa 2, Metuisela Talebula, Gaby Lovobalavu
Pen: Ben Volavola 2
Con: Volavola 2

Manu Samoa heads to Toronto, Canada for Round 3 of the Pacific Nations Cup where they will face hosts Canada on Wednesday.  The championship matches will be played in Vancouver the following Monday, 3 August.

Today’s run on team:
1. Sakaria Taulafo
2. Motu Matu’u
3. Anthony Perenise
4. Teofilo Paulo
5. Faatiga Lemalu
6. TJ Ioane
7. Jack Lam
8. Vavae Tuilagi
9. Pele Cowley
10. Michael Stanley
11. Alesana Tuilagi
12. Johnny Leota
13. Paul Perez
14. Alofa Alofa
15. Faatoina Autagavaia

16. Ma’atulimanu Leiataua
17. Viliamu Afatia
18. Jake Grey
19. Joe Tekori
20. Faifili Levave
21. Vavao Afemai
22. Patrick Faapale
23. Faleniu Iosi *
* new cap

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