Source: World Rugby. Sat 13 May, Apia Samoa. Fiji Warriors have been crowned World Rugby Pacific Challenge 2023 champions.
Motikiai Murray scored four of Fiji Warriors’ 11 tries as they wrapped up their 10th title with a 73-25 victory against Tonga A at Apia Park.
Heading into the final round, Senirusi Seruvakula’s side held a comfortable advantage at the top of the standings thanks to bonus-point wins against Junior Japan and Manuma Samoa.
And a third five-point triumph duly arrived on Saturday, as Motikiai Murray scored four of Fiji Warriors’ 11 tries to help them beat Tonga A and secure another competition title.
Hosts Manuma Samoa, beaten 50-25 by Fiji Warriors on Monday, ended their campaign in winning style by beating Junior Japan 44-33 to finish second in the standings.
FIJI WARRIORS SECURE TITLE IN STYLE
It was Tonga A who opened the scoring against Fiji Warriors at Apia Park, but Lopeti Kiu’s fourth-minute penalty was soon usurped as Murray crossed the whitewash for the first time.
Kiu struck a second penalty in the 13th minute, by which time John Muller had touched down a second try for Fiji Warriors. The champions elect then went over through Tevita Sabola and Murray again to build a 24-6 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Tonga A breached the Fiji Warriors line in the 23rd minute as Puniani Malafu scored, and after Paul Dolokoto went over for their opponents, Siaosi Vakapuna notched their second try with five minutes of the first half remaining.
However, hopes of a Tonga A comeback were dashed on the stroke of half-time as Ilikimi Torosi scored Fiji Warriors’ sixth try of the match. Enele Malele’s fourth conversion made the score 38-18 at the break.
Isoa Tuwai scored his side’s seventh try in the opening minute of the second half and it was virtually one-way traffic for the next 40 minutes as Murray wrapped up his hat-trick before Sireli Masi and Semi Tokitani also touched down.
Viliami Vakata scored Tonga A’s third try with a little over six minutes left, but there was still time for Murray to cross for a fourth time and take Fiji Warriors’ tally past the 70-point mark.
HOSTS FIGHT BACK TO END ON HIGH
Manuma Samoa and Junior Japan went into the final day locked on five points and they played out a see-saw match to bring the curtain down on the 2023 Pacific Challenge.
Junior Seuteni Alivaa scored the first of his three tries in only the fourth minute, converted by Afa Moleli, before Junior Japan hit back almost immediately through Kosho Muto.
Kota Nagashima crossed the whitewash in the 13th minute to give Junior Japan the lead but the hosts levelled within three minutes as Uta Taaititi scored.
Nagashima crossed for the second time in the 21st minute and it was Junior Japan who led at half-time, 26-17, after the teams traded further tries, through Kirisimasi Savaiinaea and Yoshiki Omachi, at the end of the first half.
Seuteni Alivaa struck twice in the opening six minutes of the second half to complete his hat-trick and give Manuma Samoa a slender one-point lead.
Junior Japan retook the lead in the 53rd minute as Genki Ikuta scored a try that was converted by Yoshiki Omachi.
But that was as good as it got for the Japanese as Melani Matavao scored two tries and a penalty in the final 20 minutes to confirm a 44-33 victory and second place in the standings.