Fiji braved the rain to see off Samoa and take home the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2017. The defending champions remain unbeaten in 2016 and 2017 among the Pacific Nations, which together served as the world cup qualifying competitions in Oceania. Fiji already secured their Rugby World Cup place in the Oceania 1 qualifier when they scraped a recent victory against Tonga 14-10. They will join Pool D with Australia, Wales, Georgia, and the Americas 2 qualifier, which could be either Canada or Uruguay.
The Fiji victory against Samoa came as welcomed news for Tonga, who have now claimed their place as the Oceania 2 World Cup qualifier without even having to play.
Samoa needed a single point to draw level with Tonga. This could have come in the form of a bonus point, if not a victory, but Samoa managed neither. They finished the qualifiers with five points to Tonga’s six.
Fiji took an early lead in the Pacific Nation’s final with a converted try from Henry Senioli getting the scoring started. Samoa then responded with a try from captain David Lemi and Pisi’s conversion levelled the teams. Fiji struck back with a blistering counter-attack that saw full-back Timoci Nagusa set up Senioli for another try.
The late pressure in the first half saw fly-half Pisi kick three penalties, leaving the half time score 16-14 and hosts Samoa sporting a narrow lead. It looked like this was going to be one even game!
The second half was a different story. Among the action, Senioli scored a hat-trick that ultimately ended Samoa’s dreams of winning the match. Ben Volavola also showed excellent form, kicking a total of five conversions and a penalty for a personal tally of 13 points.
The game ended with a score of 38-16, and it’s fair to say that Fiji truly outclassed their opponents in the second half to earn themselves the silverware.
Tonga will join the extremely tough Group C following Fiji’s win. They will be in the mix with France, Argentina, USA, and England in what has become known as the “group of death”.
As for Samoa, their hopes are not over yet. They will now play either Czech Republic or Portugal in the playoffs. On a positive note, this route to the World Cup could result in an easier group for Samoa, but this will serve as little consolation given how close they were to guaranteed qualification.
If Samoa fails to beat their opponent in this match, their only option will be to fight their way through the global repechage tournament.
Interestingly, bookmakers have far from ruled out Samoa in the Rugby World Cup. The team is still running at odds of 50/1 on BetStars with Tonga showing even less of a chance of winning with 80/1. Indeed, Samoa’s chances of qualification are far from over and, if they do make it through, their pool will make for easier pickings than Tonga’s, who are going to make it very hard for them to break into the group stages.
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