Junior ABs, Samoa victorious
Wing Hosea Gear starred with three tries as a slick Junior All Blacks outfit beat disjointed Fiji 45-17 in the Pacific Nations Cup in Lautoka on Thursday.
The Junior All Blacks stepped up a gear in their seven-try-to-three victory, showing more cohesion than in their narrow 17-16 win over Samoa in their opening match at the weekend.
Fiji showed flashes of their characteristic free-running talents, but a high error rate meant they were unable to maintain possession and string phases together.
In the other second round match of the round-robin tournament Thursday, in nearby Sigatoka, a late four-try surge clinched a 34-15 win for Samoa over Japan.
Gear's speed and power showed he is making a speedy return to form after an injury-interrupted season, which stalled his momentum following a strong showing for the All Blacks on their European tour late last year.
The Wellington Hurricanes wing scored the opening try seven minutes into the match after collecting a deft crossfield kick from flyhalf Stephen Brett and stepping around the sole defender to touch down.
Fiji hit back 10 minutes later with a converted try to scrumhalf Nemia Kenatale, giving the home side a shortlived lead.
A minute later lock Tom Donelly hit back for the Juniors and further touchdowns to captain Tamati Ellison and outside centre Anthony Tuitavake stretched the lead to 24-7 at the break.
Gear added to his tally just two minutes into the second half, using his strength to touch down in the tackle.
Fiji needed only another three minutes to hit back with five points through number eight Sakiusa Matadigo after centre Waisale Suka prised open the Juniors' defence.
The Juniors and Fiji traded more tries through Rene Ranger and Iliesa Keresini respectively, before Gear barged through three tackles to set the seal on a dominant performance.
Tries: Kenatale, Matadigo, Keresoni
Junior All Blacks:
Tries: Gear 3, Donnelley, Ellison, Tuitavake, Ranger
Con: Brett 4, Slade
Fiji: 15 Iliesa Keresoni, 14 Filimoni Bolavucu, 13 Waisale Suka, 12 Seru Rabeni (co-captain), 11 Timoci Nagusa, 10 Alipate Tani, 9 Nemia Kenatale, 8 Sakiusa Matadigo, 7 Netabi Talei, 6 Leone Nakarawa, 5 Kele Leawere (co-captain), 4 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 3 Viliame Seuseu, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Graham Dewes.
Replacements: 16 Sireli Ledua, 17 Alifoso Yalayalatabua, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Anthony Wise, 20 Jone Daunivucu, 21 Waisea Luveniyali, 22 Vereniki Goneva.
Junior All Blacks: 15 Tamati Ellison (captain), 14 Rene Ranger, 13 Anthony Tuitavake, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Stephen Brett, 9 Chris Smylie, 8 Victor Vito, 7 Karl Lowe, 6 Jason Eaton, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Jeremy Thrush, 3 Ben Franks, 2 Hikawera Elliot, 1 John Schwalger.
Replacements: 16 Ged Robinson, 17 James McGougan, 18 Sione Lauaki, 19 Alando Soakai, 20 Sean Romans, 21 Colin Slade, 22 Robbie Fruean.
Referee: Romain Poite (France)
* In the other match, Japan led 15-12 midway through the second spell but Samoa's greater size and experience took their toll as they finished six-tries-to-two winners.
Japan, who dominated territory until well into the second half, were also partly undone by handling and tactical errors.
They were unable to turn their dominance of possession in the first spell into a lead, going into the break with Samoa 12-3 ahead.
Samoa's first half tries underlined the dominance of their pack, including a penalty try after 23 minutes when Japan illegally disrupted a drive towards the line from a five-metre scrum.
The Pacific islanders drove over for their second from an attacking line-out eight metres out, with prop Justin Va'a emerging from the back of the maul to score.
Japan hit back twice in the first 12 minutes of the second half through full back Jack Tarrant and wing Hirotoki Onozawa to take the lead briefly at 15-12.
But big Samoan wing Sailosi Tagicakibau broke through several tackles before outpacing the cover defence to restore his team's lead midway through the spell.
Hooker Mahonri Schwalger and replacements Esera Lauina and Semo Sititi all added tries in the final quarter as the Japanese
Tries: Va'a, Tagicakibau, Schwalger, Lauina, Sititi, Penalty try
Cons: Williams 2
Tries: Tarrant, Onozawa
Japan: 15 Jack Tarrant, 14 Koji Tomioka, 13 Koji Taira, 12 Ryan Nicholas, 11 Hirotoki Onozawa, 10 Shaun Webb, 9 Fumiaki Tanaka, 8 Takashi Kukutani (captain), 7 Touetsu Taufa, 6 Michael Leitch, 5 Toshizumi Kitagawa, 4 Luke Thompson, 3 Hiroshi Yamashita, 2 Yusuke Aoki, 1 Hisateru Hirashima.
Replacements: 16 Tateo Kanai, 17 Kensuke Hatakeyama, 18 Hitoshi Ono, 19 Masakazu Toyota, 20 Tomoki Yoshida, 21 James Arlidge, 22 Yuta Imamura.
Samoa: 15 Lolo Lui, 14 Henry Fa'afili, 13 Gavin Williams, 12 Eliota Fuimaono, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Uale Ma'i , Notise Tauafao, 8 George Stowers (captain), 7 William Brame, 6 Jonathan Faamatuainu, 5 Filipo Levi, 4 Daniel Leo, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Justin Va'a.
Replacements: 16 Ernest Skelton, 17 Andrew Williams, 18 Ofisa Treviranus, 19 Semo Sititi, 20 Junior Poluleuigaga, 21 Reupena Levasa, 22 Esera Lauina.
Referee: Nathan Pearce (Australia)
Junior All Blacks 17, Samoa 16
Fiji 36, Tonga 22
Junior All Blacks 45, Fiji 17
Samoa 34, Japan 15
Tuesday, June 23
Samoa v Tonga
Japan v Junior All Blacks
Saturday, June 27
Tonga v Japan
Samoa v Fiji
Thursday, July 2
At Suva, Fiji
Tonga v Junior All Blacks
Friday, July 3
Fiji v Japan
(Under games played and points)
Junior All Blacks (New Zealand) 2 9
Samoa 2 6
Fiji 2 5
Tonga 1 0
Japan 1 0