In a tightly contested match at the Bond University grounds, the Fijiana XVs faced a devastating one-point defeat, 18-19, at the hands of Samoa in the Oceania Rugby Championship title decider.
This loss yesterday places Fijiana in the third tier of the Women’s World XVs tournament, known as WXV 3, alongside Ireland, Kazakhstan and Kenya in October. Samoa secure a spot in WXV 2 alongside Scotland, Japan and South Africa.
“It’s quite heart-breaking. We’re disappointed, the girls are gutted but, in the end, the better team won and rugby won,” Fijiana captain Sereima Leweniqila said in an interview with Oceania Rugby. “It was a real battle, Samoa came out hard. We didn’t execute some moves but congratulations to Samoa for a great win.”
The match was a true battle from start to finish. It took until the end of the first quarter for the first points to grace the scoreboard. Samoa’s fly-half, Cassie Siataga, kicked a penalty to give her team the initial lead. However, Fijiana’s center, Vani Arei, responded with a try in the 31st minute, leveling the score.
Fijiana’s Luisa Tisolo missed the conversion but managed to strike a penalty just before half-time, granting her team an 8-3 lead going into the break. However, Samoa wasted no time in the second half, as Siataga powered over from close range and successfully converted her own try, taking back the lead.
The match continued to sway back and forth as Fijiana’s prop, Siteri Rasolea, scored a try before being substituted. But Samoa fought back with two penalties from Siataga, edging ahead at 16-13. The score remained unchanged until the final five minutes, which turned into a dramatic spectacle.
Fijiana’s fly-half, Tisolo, made a break, and after some impressive ball movement, Milinia, a replacement player, touched down for a try. Tisolo missed the conversion, but Fijiana seemed poised for victory as they regained possession from the restart. Unfortunately, an error by Naimasi resulted in a ball kicked out of play, and Samoa’s Siataga, the tournament’s leading points-scorer, capitalised on the opportunity.
In other matches, despite being reduced to 14 players Tonga secured a bonus-point 30-22 victory against Papua New Guinea, solidifying their third-place finish in the championship.