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A thrilling draw

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TRY TIME: Paul Perez scores for Manu Samoa against Fiji in Sacramento. Photo: James Atoa.It wasn't a win but it wasn't a loss either. And with that, Manu Samoa’s hopes of securing the Pacific Nations Cup remains intact.

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The men in blue came back from a 27-10 deficit to draw their Round 2 match against Fiji, 30-30, at Bonney Field, Sacramento, yesterday.

Despite the disappointment of not being able to secure victory despite the amazing come back, Coach Stephen Betham was positive.

“The boys showed a lot of character today,” he said after the game.

“And we’re happy with the way they stood up. But still we’ve got a lot of work to do as we look to Canada next week.”

Playing in 32 degrees Celcius heat, both teams were looking for the upper hand early but it was Fiji who scored two quick tries both to lock Leone Nakarawa, in the first 15 minutes.

Manu Samoa responded soon after when centre Paul Perez dotted down following quick hands and a great break from Michael Stanley.

MAN OF THE MATCH: TJ Ioane played his heart out for Samoa yesterday. Photo: James Atoa.Fiji’s pressure in the Samoan half and a couple of key mistackles from Samoa finally rewarded Fiji with a try to fullback Metuisela Talebula who finished off some slick Fijian running and passing to stretch over the line for a five-pointer just before half time.

Samoa came back with a vengeance in the second half, despite Fiji scoring first with midfielder Gabby Lovobalavu making easy work of Samoa’s last defence.

Ten minutes into the second half Samoa were trailing 27-10, but then Samoa regrouped and their patience paid off when they finally managed to get the ball out wide where prop Anthony Perenise was the last receiver who banked the points.

From the kick-off Samoa, earned a series of penalties which resulted in a maul and then Perez, who was in outstanding form, wrong footed several defenders to dot down on the 62nd minute.

With the Fijians now within reach and 15 minutes to play, the Manu’s desperation at the breakdown and solid go forward play, resulted in standout loose forward TJ Ioane scoring a well-deserved try.

Stanley converted to level the scores at 27-apiece.

The tension continued as first Volavola, then replacement first five Patrick Fa’apale, nailed respective penalties in the dying minutes of the game.

“It was definitely the hard way to do it, as Fiji found their rhythm early in that first half,” Betham said.

“It was like last week a game of two halves. The boys had a slow start – a lot of mistakes in the first half and a few loose balls we should have dived on.

“The Fijians are known for their flair and we gave that up in the first half. But credit to the boys they came back in the second half.”

Manu Samoa heads to Toronto, Canada for Round 3 of the Pacific Nations Cup where they will face hosts Canada on Wednesday.

The championship matches will be played in Vancouver the following Monday, 3 August.

MANU SAMOA:

Tries: Paul Perez 2, Anthony Perenise, TJ Ioane Pen: Mike Stanley, Patrick Faapale Con: Stanley 2 FLYING FIJIANS: Tries: Leone Nakarawa 2, Metuisela Talebula, Gaby Lovobalavu Pen: Ben Volavola 2 Con: Volavola 2

 

 

 

 

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