Australia A beat Fiji 32-18 in Pacific Nations Cup match

Jason Gilmore’s much changed Australia A team put a poor opening loss to Samoa behind it with an impressive 32-18 win over Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup on Saturday.

While the hosts’ four missed kicks from five attempts made the margin greater than it might have been, the Australian A team defended with more purpose and showed some impressive attacking glimpses.

While Langi Gleeson was outstanding, the change of Ben Donaldson at No.10 over Tane Edmed also made a difference to the Aussies’ fluidity.

Dylan Pietsch scored one try after being set up by Donaldson, while Filipo Daugunu, Hugh Sinclair and Jeremy Williams, with a brilliant charge down and regather, also cross for the Aussies.

While Fiji had their moments – former All Black Seta Tamanivalu scored a brutal try after his famous fend left Jock Campbell sprawling and then set up another for Levani Botia, while Vinaya Habosi was a handful at times – it was a much more controlled Australian effort despite losing the penalty count 16-6.

The stat that mattered most was Australia’s 6:21 minutes inside Fiji’s 22 compared to 1:56 by Fiji in theirs. At halftime it was a two point ball game and that time stat was close, but Australia took command after the break, only easing up after a stretch of three penalties in three minutes led to Fiji’s only try of the second half.

Captain Ryan Lonergan said: “We fronted up today, we knew we had to, Fiji are a physical side. The forwards set the platform and I think we managed the game quite well. The progress we made in a week is a positive and we’ll look to build.”

Australia will face Tonga next week, after their loss to Samoa earlier on Saturday. Samoa lead the Pacific Nations Cup with two wins from two with Fiji and Aus A on one and Tonga on none.

Earlier, hooker Ray Niuia scored a hat-trick of tries as Samoa fought back from a half-time deficit to hand Tonga a 34-18 defeat at Churchill Park in the Pacific Nations Cup.Niuia capitalised on Veikoso Poloniati’s sin-binning early in the second half to overturn Tonga’s 18-10 lead at the interval as the Samoans used the strength of their forwards to devastating effect to secure the win in Lautoka on Saturday.

Ryan Lonergan

Ryan Lonergan (Photo by Getty Images)

Tonga had endured a heavy defeat to Fiji in their tournament opener last week, and there was no place in the squad for former Wallabies centre Israel Folau or ex-All Blacks Malakai Fekitoa and Charles Piutau.

Despite the absence of the high-profile trio, Tonga took early control with a pair of James Faiva penalties followed by tries from Fetuli Paea and Poloniati as their side established an 18-3 lead inside the opening 30 minutes.

But Niuia applied the finishing touch as the Samoan maul drove the Tongans back in the 35th minute and, six minutes into the second half, the hooker completed a repeat performance to further close the gap.

By that point Poloniati had seen the yellow card for tackling Jonathan Taumateine without the ball and, in the 53rd minute, Niuia completed his hat-trick when he peeled off the back of the maul to score in the corner.

Tumua Manu increased Samoa’s advantage when he stole possession with an interception inside the Tongan half to race in unopposed and Theo McFarland’s pick-up and drive added further to the scoreline as Samoa finally prevailed.

Fiji will be looking to secure their second win in this year’s competition later on Saturday when they take on Australia A, who lost their opener against Samoa last week.

(With Reuters)

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