Round 3 of the Pacific Challenge is in the books, with some of the tournament’s most exciting action taking place as the teams wrapped up pool play.
A poor game littered with errors and optional defense saw Tonga run in 10 tries against the Japan u20 side, but not without conceding 4 and looking very ordinary for large stretches of the game. The Tongan scrum was abominably bad, decimated by the Japanese front row in a shocking display of indolence. Were it not for a dominant loose forward trio and superior outside backs, Tonga might have been staring down the gun of a famous defeat.
As it was Tonga escaped, but allowed Japan to dictate much of the play with most of their success coming off counter attacks from turnovers. Japan would take some heart from the performance, which included impressive displays from Ryuji Noguchi, Toshiki Kuwayama, and Tongan-born duo Tevita Tatafu and Ata’ata Moeakiola. The two sides will meet again on Monday in their final match of the competition.
Tonga ‘A’ – V. Mavae 3c, L. Simote 2c, S. Talakai 2t, T. Ahia 2t, S. Fiefia 2t, F. Havea 2t, L. Kilifi 2t
Junior Japan – R. Noguchi 1t 2c, A. Moeakiola 2t, S. Iseki 1t
Tonga ‘A’ – T. Na’a yellow (52)
Junior Japan – G. Maeda yellow (52)
V. Mavae; S. Talakai, K. Greer (S. Fiefia 4), A. Ma’afu (M. Paea 59), S. Palei; F. Hui (L. Simote 61), S. Muna; T. Ahia (L. Tuipulotu 47), W. Tuifua (L. Kilifi 47), K. Kaufusi (L. Ahovelo 59); A. Fe’ao (capt.), T. Na’a (A. Aholahi 66); F. Lokotui (V. Baranyi 73), F. Havea, J. Ram.
T. Ozaki; T. Kuwayama (S. Iseki 57), K. Kasahara (A. Moeakiola 52), Y. Okada, H. Higashikawa; R. Noguchi, K. Murase (R. Yonemura 59); S. Miura (R. Kuhara 52), Y. Furuta (R. Iwaihara 46), T. Kakimoto (Y. Fujino 52); T. Tsuji (T. Saita 57), T. Tatafu; H. Kato, R. Sasaki (S. Song 78), G. Maeda (capt.).
A thrilling match saw Canada scrap tooth and nail with the Pampas for over an hour before finally succumbing to exhaustion in the extreme humidity. Two late tries from Tomás Cubelli and Pablo Matera stretched the score, but for much of the match there was little between the two sides. A scintillating try for Harry Jones opened the match as the Pampas were caught off-balance in the opening quarter, and only the class of outside backs Santiago Cordero and Manuel Montero spared their blushes.
The most impressive aspect of the performance was up front, where the Canadian forwards gave the Pampas a torrid time at scrum and close quarters. It’s not often you see Argentine packs going backwards, and Tom Dolezel had Bruno Postiglioni on skates until he came off for a well-earned rest. The tight five in particular outplayed their opposites, and the back row competed manfully though ultimately had to concede to the outstanding Pablo Matera and Facundo Isa.
Though both of Canada’s tries came through the backs, defensively they struggled to contain the speed of Cordero and power of Montero, with the latter setting up two walk-in tries for Emiliano Boffelli and very nearly adding one of his own had he not embarrassingly stepped into touch with nothing but grass between him and the tryline. Cubelli added a much-needed spark to the attack when he made his entrance, and hoodwinked the tired post defense to put the Pampas out of reach.
Canada will now face Samoa in their final match, and might lose some players to early departures in preparation for the Hong Kong 7s taking place next weekend. The Pampas have been made to work hard but will contest the final against Fiji, a rematch of their opening fixture that was decided by only two points.
Canada ‘A’ – G. McRorie 1p 1c, H. Jones 1t, C. Trainor 1t
Argentina Pampas XV – S. González Iglesias 1c, J. Rojas 2c, E. Boffelli 2t, S. Cordero 1t, F. Isa 1t, T. Cubelli 1t, P. Matera 1t
Argentina Pampas XV – F. Isa yellow (78)
H. Jones; C. Trainor, C. Hearn (capt.), N. Blevins (P. Parfrey 60), P. Mackenzie; L. Underwood (P. Kay 77), G. McRorie (S. White 60); T. Dolezel (P. Houlihan 54), R. Barkwill (B. Piffero 60), J. Ilnicki; C. Morrison (A. Flagg 50), E. Olmstead; A. Kleeberger (S. Pearson 54-60) (R. Kotlewski 69), J. Moonlight, S. Pearson (A. Clark 50).
ARGENTINA PAMPAS XV
S. Cordero; E. Boffelli (R. Miralles 60), M. Moroni, J. de la Fuente (J. Rojas 58), M. Montero; S. González Iglesias, F. Ezcurra (T. Cubelli 53); L. Noguera Paz (S. García Botta 50), S. Iglesias Valdez (J. Montoya 53), B. Postiglioni (L. Martínez 70); G. Petti (G. Albertario 70), M. Alemanno; P. Matera, T. Lezana (L. Ahualli 45), F. Isa.
Samoa gave Fiji all they could handle in the first half before the class of the host side took charge in the second stanza. A scorching early breakaway try from Francis Ieremia stunned Fiji, and the massive boot of fullback Titi Esau knocked over 5 long-range penalty goals to keep the scoreboard ticking over. The hits going in from both sides were ferocious, especially one by Semiperive Semeane on opposite Sireli Ledua, stopping the rampaging Fijian dead in his tracks with a thunderous tackle that drew ‘ooohs’ from the crowd.
Classy halfback Serupepeli Vularika inspired Fiji’s rebuttal, with his pace and speedy delivery allowing for his outside backs to get on the front foot. The heavy Fijian pack took charge in the scrum, and once the game started to break up, it was all she wrote, with the big men getting in on the act as well. Mataiasi Ucutabua’s shoe-lace grab to score was almost as impressive as Aminiasi Nava’s 50 metre gallop to outstrip the cover defense. Samoa now face Canada once again on Monday, while Fiji contest the final against defending champions Argentina.
Fiji Warriors – S. Vularika 1t 2p 2c, R. Vatuinaruku 1c, N. Wakaya 1t, K. Douglas 1t, M. Ucutabua 1t, A. Nava 1t, I. Donaldson 1t
Samoa ‘A’ – T. Esau 5p, F. Ieremia 1t
Samoa ‘A’ – F. Afamasaga yellow (62)
I. Donaldson; J. Stewart, J. Kerevi, E. Vasiteri (P. Waqanibau 72), N. Wakaya; K. Douglas (R. Vatuinaruku 72), S. Vularika (E. Waqa 72); I. Bele (J. Veitayaki 61), S. Ledua (S. Cakobau 76), T. Koroi (L. Atalifo 61); S. Tabakanalagi (M. Tamaya 66), M. Ucutabua; A. Nava, F. Koroi (A. Mataivelia 76), N. Nagusa (capt.).
T. Esau (V. Afa 69); H. Suau’u, K. Thomsen (R. Meredith 61), F. Afamasaga, Fn. Iosi; P. Fa’apale (capt.), V. Afemai (V. Simanu 63); R. Fualau (S. Aiono 46), S. Semeane (A. Malo 69), J. Grey (Ft. Iosi 66); F. Afiafi, N. Aitui; F. Ieremia (X. Martel 58), O. Fa’afou, P. Semeane (S. Tuiuli 53).