Samoa beats host Fiji to win rugby’s Pacific Nations Cup
LAUTOKA, Fiji (AP) — Replacement hooker Seilala Lam scored two tries including the match-winner in the 70th minute as Samoa rallied to beat Fiji 23-20 Saturday to win the Pacific Nations Cup for the first time in eight years.
On an eventful final day of the four-nation tournament, Australia A first beat Tonga 39-22 to briefly move atop the table. But Samoa rallied from 17-3 down at halftime to overcome Fiji with Lam’s two second-half tries to win the trophy for the third time.
Samoa came into the final round Saturday unbeaten on two wins, with 10 points and ahead of Australia A on seven points and Fiji on five.
Fiji-born winger Filipo Daugunu scored two tries for Australia A as they beat Tonga by five tries to three to rise to the top of the table.
But Samoa’s strong second-half performance in which they outscored Fiji 20-6 clinched the trophy away and made Samoa champion as the tournament resumed after a three-year break caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We really bounced back in the second half,” Samoa captain Michael Alaalatoa said. “The Fijians are world class and they put a lot of pressure on us at set piece, especially at scrum time.”
Fiji put together a solid first-half performance with tries to lock Albert Tuisue and scrumhalf Frank Lomani to build a decisive advantage at the break.
The Samoa defense found Tuisue unstoppable at close range in the 20th minute and Lomani took the ball from a scrum 15 meters out in the 30th minute and stepped through hesitant tackling to score.
Lam launched Samoa’s rally with his first try from a lineout drove in the second minute of the second half. Flyhalf Rodney Iona brought Samoa closer with successive penalties before Lam’s second try decided the match and the tournament.
Earlier, Australia A faced a tough battle before eventually overcoming Tonga.
Hooker Sam Moli scored Tonga’s first try from a lineout drive after only three minutes and Tonga scored two more tries by that method, one to Moli and another to his replacement Jay Fonokalafi to stay in the contest.
Australia A led 18-3 when backrower Langi Gleeson scored just before halftime. But Tonga rallied strongly on the back of solid lineout play and Australia A needed Daugunu’s second try and tries to Hamish Stewart and James Tuttle to clinch its win.
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