FIJI 22 (M Koroibete 2, J Bukuya, F Goodall tries; A Koroisau 3 goals)
PNG 10 (M Trnka, S Albert tries; S Kata goal)
The first leg of the Pacific Test double header kicked off between a NRL experience heavy Fiji and a PNG side containing a handful of NRL players mixed with a good bunch of Intrust Super Cup players from the PNG Hunters and other sides.
The game started with the usual national anthem, and the sight of the Fijian side singing as part of their pre-game ritual, a refreshing change from the usual booing and corporate entrances in the NRL.
On paper the Fiji side looked to have the edge in most departments, and despite taking some time to score the game’s first points through Jason Bukuya just before the 20 minute mark. Their dominance was increased not long after when Marika Koroibete crashed over in the corner to make it 12-0.
The Melbourne Storm winger had a big hand in the next passage of play where he came up with a massive hit on the PNG’s big man Willie Minoga, and the next play saw a turnover to the Fiji side. The next attacking set for Fiji was finished off with a 35th minute try to Koroibete, and the 18-0 lead was maintained until half time.
PNG needed to pick up their intensity, drop the ball less, and score first in the second half and in the 54th minutes they achieved their third objective and reduced the score to 18-4. The crowd at feel of the game picked up noticeable in this period and it only continued when the PNG side scored a converted try next to the posts to trail by 10 with 11 minutes to go.
The end to end contest continued in the last 10 minutes, and with PNG desperate to score they threw the perfect intercept pass to Fiji’s Goodall who ran 60m to score and put the game out of reach of PNG with 5 minutes to go.
Whilst there was enough minutes left to score two, it looked unlikely given Fiji’s overall performance throughout the game.
It was a great example of why these games should be played more regularly and certainly to an audience around the world on pay TV.