Samoa Try Scorers: Manumalealii 3, Tuimavave , Vidot
Goals: Inu 6/6
Fiji Try Scorers: Naiqama, Storer, Tuqiri
Fiji Goals: Tuqiri 2/3
Final Score: Samoa 32-16 Fiji
This year’s Pacific Test served up a brilliant encounter in which both sides gave every last ounce of energy they could to help their country to victory and a place in the four nations.
Penrith was packed out with nearly ten-thousand fans and the atmosphere was electric from way before the first whistle to way after the last as we were treated to some fantastic international rugby league which didn’t feature any of the top three sides in the world.
The last time we were able to see that was the World Cup and this game was a reminder of how the game can benefit from more international fixtures.
Samoa just had more composure and the better discipline despite a sending off late in the game as the penalty count was well in their favour. Fiji had the enthusiasm, desire and raw talent but gave too many penalties away which saw them run out of steam late in the game.
Penani Manumalealii was a stand out for the victors as his hat-trick led Samoa to victory and Korbin Sims was brilliant in attack and defence as the had hitting forward led Fiji’s pack well.
Korbin Sims came up with a huge shot to force the error when his side were under pressure on their own try line as a brutal and physical contest started with high intensity but it was Samoa who started the better.
Samoa had the lion share of possession early on and they made it pay when they came up with the opening score. They were awarded a scrum 10 metres from the try line and straight from the scrum Penani Manumalealii stepped his way under the sticks.
Fiji hit straight back as Kevin Naiqama picked up a stray pass and grubbered through perfectly for himself to pounce on as and the game was tied up at 6-6 when Lote Tuqiri kicked his first goal since 2002.
Fiji recovered from the Samoan onslaught early on and the momentum had swung their way as James Storer put them ahead when he ducked his way under a tackle from close range.
They went back to back when a great break from James Storer set up a chance for Fiji as he came flying on to a Korbin Sims offload. It was Korbin’s brother and the captain Ashton Sims who then set up Lote Tuqiri as the depleted and scrambled left edge Samoa defence couldn’t stop him.
Fiji were starting to get a stranglehold on the game before the momentum swung once again as Manumalealii grabbed his second as he was on hand to collect an offload and slice through the defence just before half time.
The second half started as hectic as the first and Samoa benefitted from back to back sets as a break and a penalty gave them a great opportunity early on. A quick play the ball from close range gave the platform for Manumalealii to get his hat-trick as he scooped the ball up from dummy half and beat the defence which hadn’t had time to set themselves.
Korbin Sims was hitting everything that came near him but when he hit Manumalealii he gave a penalty away for a high shot and a shoulder charge on the halfback who was causing Fiji all kinds of problems. Samoa used the penalty to edge four points ahead as Krisnan Inu converted to extend the lead.
Samoa then got their biggest lead of the game as a second kick on a last tackle play was taken by Carlos Tuimavave who timed his run perfectly and grounded the ball brilliantly despite the best efforts of a Fiji defender. Inu put them 26-16 ahead with the boot.
Fiji were never going to lie down and were still throwing everything they could at the favourites Samoa. They had a chance to get back in the game when they set up camp on the Samoa goal line with three sets back to back however some brilliant defence held Fiji out.
After their period of pressure Fiji were dealt a killer blow as Inu leaped highest to catch a bomb and offload it to his wing Daniel Vidot who had all the space and time in the world to finish. It was yet another try off the back of a Fiji penalty as their indiscipline started to hurt their chances in the game late on.
Sam Tagataese was sent off for a head-butt late on which marred an otherwise exemplary display from both sides as Samoa booked their place in this winter’s four nations.