Samoa edge Fiji for Pacific Nations Cup
REPORT: Unbeaten Samoa recovered from a 14-point deficit to beat hosts Fiji 23-20 on Saturday and win the Nations Cup for the first time in eight years.
Hooker Seilala Lam was the hero, barging across for both his team’s tries at Churchill Park in Lautoka as the Samoans fought back from 17-3 down at halftime to win the four-nation tournament for a fourth time.
Australia ‘A’ finished second after outclassing Tonga 39-22 in the early match.
The Australian invitation side would have clinched the silverware if Samoa hadn’t launched their late response to make it three wins in three matches.
Five-time champion Fiji took control via tries midway through the first half to Albert Tuisue and Frank Lomani, the latter score coming via some sparkling footwork from the veteran scrum-half.
Lam entered the game as a replacement during the interval and soon sparked the fightback with a try from a lineout drive.
Flyhalf Rodney Iona, who landed five-from-five shots in a 13-point haul, narrowed the gap with two penalties before Leilala completed a period of pressure with a try to hand his side the lead 10 minutes from the end.
It was the third time the second-string Australian side had been invited to the tournament, where they also finished as runners-up in 2007 and 2008.
They scored five tries in dismantling winless Tonga, with six-Test Wallabies winger Filipo Daungunu bagging a double and captain Ryan Lonergan kicking 12 points.
Tonga were again without former Wallabies back Israel Folau, who was eligible to play under World Rugby rules which allow a player to represent a second nation.
However, 33-year-old Folau, who was sacked by Rugby Australia in 2019 for posting messages deemed homophobic on social media, only played the first half hour of the opening match before suffering a hamstring injury.
It is unclear if he will be available when Tonga play Hong Kong in an Asia/Pacific World Cup qualifying Test next Saturday on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.