An emotional day of matches brought an exciting couple of weeks of Pacific Challenge action to a close, with Argentina once again taking the spoils.
The Japanese u20 side enjoyed their most fruitful outing to finish off their tournament, running in four tries against an apathetic Tongan side in a rematch of the game they had played only four days prior. A quick-fire try by Frank Havea looked to restart the contest in similar fashion, but Seiya Ozaki’s equally swift response showed Japan’s intent to make things difficult. Three more Tongan tries before the break put to bed any notions of an upset, but captain Kosuke Horikoshi’s try restored some respectability.
That Tonga only managed to outscore the youngsters by a single point in the second half was a significant feat, a combination of the impact of Ryuji Noguchi’s introduction to the game and lackadaisical Tongan defense. One wonders what might have happened had the two teams played a third match. It was a disappointing end for a very haphazard Tonga, by some distance the tournament’s least impressive outfit. As expected, Japan were as outmatched in every game, and one hopes that next future renditions of the tournament they will be obliged to send a senior representative side so as to avoid such distasteful scorelines.
Junior Japan – R. Noguchi 1t 2c, S. Ozaki 1t, K. Horikoshi 1t, T. Tatafu 1t
Tonga ‘A’ – V. Mavae 1t 4c, F. Havea 1t, A. Ma’afu 1t, S. Muna 1t, M. Tonga 1t, S. Talakai 1t, T. Otuvaka 1t
Tonga ‘A’ – F. Lokotui yellow (49), M. Tonga yellow (57)
V. Mavae; S. Talakai, S. Palei (L. Simote 36), A. Ma’afu (M. Paea 76), S. Fiefia; F. Hui, S. Muna; L. Tuipulotu (T. Ahia 62), W. Tuifua (L. Kilifi 51), K. Kaufusi (T. Otuvaka 70); A. Fe’ao (capt.), M. Tonga (A. Aholahi 70); S. Pole (V. Baranyi HT), F. Havea (T. Na’a 56), F. Lokotui.
T. Ozaki (K. Kasahara 46); S. Ozaki, Y. Okada, A. Moeakiola (R. Noguchi 46), H. Higashikawa; T. Kanai, D. Nakajima (R. Yonemura 65); S. Miura (R. Kuhara 62), K. Horikoshi (capt.) (R. Iwaihara 70), T. Kakimoto (Y. Fujino 68); T. Saita, T. Tatafu; H. Kato, K. Urabe, G. Maeda (R. Sasaki 56).
An engrossing contest between two evenly matched sides ended in a stirring victory for Canada via a last minute try for standout flanker Alistair Clark. The back-and-forth encounter yielded plenty of action and drama, with Canada getting an early score through Liam Underwood but struggling to maintain the lead thanks to the controlling play of Samoan captain and flyhalf Patrick Fa’apale. While the set piece favoured the Canadians, particularly the scrum, the continuous assault of the big Samoan runners, led by outstanding hooker Andrew Williams, took its toll and eventually the cracks appeared.
A timely entrance by Ray Barkwill injected some energy to the forwards, and the live-wire hooker looked to match his opposite’s impact with a try of his own, only for Williams to reply with his second with what looked to be the winning score. Canada kept their composure and Gordon McRorie fifth successful shot at goal followed up Clark’s effort to seal the victory on the final whistle.
It was a stirring victory for the Canucks, who entered the game tired and with half an eye on Hong Kong, and one that will reside long in memory for participants. While Samoa dotted down three times, all were the result of intense pressure and none were conceded halfheartedly. For many this win will cement their spot in the plane to England, for others it may have put them back in contention. Canada will be most proud of producing the 80 minute effort that had eluded them thus far, a important sign of progress ahead of the Pacific Nations Cup.
Canada ‘A’ – G. McRorie 3p 2c, L. Underwood 1t, R. Barkwill 1t, A. Clark 1t
Samoa ‘A’ – P. Fa’apale 2p 1d 1c, A. Williams 2t, F. Afamasaga 1t
Samoa ‘A’ – F. Ieremia yellow (44), F. Afiafi yellow (58)
P. Kay (J. Wilson-Ross 76); J. Wilson-Ross (S. White 63), C. Hearn (capt.), P. Parfrey, P. Mackenzie (N. Blevins 56); L. Underwood (S. White 34-HT), G. McRorie; T. Dolezel (P. Houlihan 76), B. Piffero (R. Barkwill 54), J. Ilnicki (R. Kotlewski 56); A. Flagg (T. de Goede 56), E. Olmstead (K. Baillie 54); C. Morrison, A. Clark, S. Pearson.
T. Esau (M. Matavao 79); H. Suau’u, R. Meredith (S. Iosua 68), F. Afamasaga, Fn. Iosi; P. Fa’apale (capt.), P. Cowley (V. Afemai 56); S. Aiono (R. Fualau 60), A. Williams (A. Malo 77), J. Grey (Ft. Iosi 56); F. Afiafi, E. Togitele (S. Tuiuli 72); F. Ieremia (X. Martel 70), O. Fa’afou, N. Aitui.
Argentina overcame a spirited Fijian side with a composed second half display to repeat as tournament champions, though under a new label. Spurred on by the shock death of prop Iosefe Bele during the week, the home side put in a fierce effort for the first 40 minutes, leading by 2 points at the break thanks to three penalty goals from scrumhalf Serupepeli Vularika. Another spectacular Santiago Cordero try kept the Pampas in the game but the going was tough.
The emotion of the occasion caught up with Fiji as the match went on. With their energy level dropping rapidly Argentina were able to break the line through straight-running centre Jerónimo de la Fuente. A further penalty goal from Santiago González Iglesias put the match out of reach, and the trophy back in Argentinean hands. Though it wasn’t quite the finish Fiji had set out for, they can hold their heads high after a fine tournament and a very respectable finish under the circumstances. The Pampas were never quite at their best but improved as the tournament went on and were in the end deserved winners.
Fiji Warriors – S. Vularika 3p
Argentina Pampas XV – S. González Iglesias 1p 2c, S. Cordero 1t, J. de la Fuente 1t
I. Donaldson; J. Stewart (R. Vatuinaruku 67), J. Kerevi, E. Vasiteri (P. Waqanibau 52), N. Wakaya; K. Douglas, S. Vularika (E Waqa 75); J. Veitayaki (N. Camainakelo 71), S. Ledua (S. Cakobau 66), T. Koroi (L. Atalifo 49); S. Tabakanalagi, M. Ucutabua (A. Mataivelia 61); A. Nava (T. Sauvoli 61), F. Koroi, N. Nagusa (capt.).
ARGENTINA PAMPAS XV
S. Cordero; R. Moyano (E. Boffelli 73), M. Moroni, J. de la Fuente; M. Montero; S. González Iglesias (capt.), F. Ezcurra (M. Landajo HT); L. Noguera Paz (B. Postiglioni 58), J. Montoya (S. Iglesias Valdez 53), M. Díaz (L. Martínez 73); G. Petti (G. Albertario 69), M. Alemanno; T. Lezana (L. Ahualli 73), J. Ortega Desio, F. Isa.