THE Fiji Batis gave a small but appreciative crowd at Port Moresby’s Lloyd Robson Oval a treat of sorts with a 26-16 victory over Tonga in the SP Brewery Pacific Cup third place play-off on Saturday.
Befitting the significance of the match it offered few gems but loads of heavy contact in an otherwise scrappy display as both teams fell into traditional modes in the heat of battle.
And hot it was as organisers factored in regular drink breaks and brought out the cool-soaked towels to help players handle the stifling conditions.
Fiji’s Newcastle Knights speedster Akuila Uate snagged two second half tries while wing partner Joe Ravueta also bagged a double, one in either half, as the Fijian pace and flair came to the fore.
Ravueta’s second in particular had a touch of rugby sevens about it as the Fijian flyer finished off a 90m counter-attack sparked by reserve Kaliova Nauqe who broke the line deep in his own half.
Tonga’s pack leader Richard Fa’aoso was easily the Ikale Tahi’s most effective forward. The Newcastle prop etched his name onto the score sheet with two trademark close-to-the-line efforts in each half and was a handful for the opposition.
The game was in the balance for 65 minutes as Tonga and Fiji and traded tries after a 10-4 halftime lead to Fiji, but the Melanesians had enough attacking venom in the end to take out the Tongans in the final quarter.
Fiji coach Terry Gilogely was happy but philosophical about the five tries to three win saying it was a good end to Fiji’s cup campaign despite a rusty start.
“We were here to win and treated each outing like a test match but were probably a little underdone because we didn’t have any warm up matches coming in.
“It was ferocious out there and both sides played great footy in patches but I want to commend the Batis for a strong defensive effort. Our defence won it for us and I’m so proud of the team,” Gilogely said.
“At this stage, Fiji is probably not ready for the Four Nations yet but give us a couple of more years and we will be.”
Fiji 26 [I Divavesi, J Ravueta (2), A Uate (2) tries; W Naiqama (3) goals] beat Tonga 16 [V Nasio, R Fa’aoso (2) tries; E Paea, P Maile goals]