Labasa successfully defended the 2023 Rooster Chicken/Scoops Ice cream Battle of the Giants title at the HFC Bank Stadium in Suva today after beating Navua 2-1 in extra time of a pulsating final.
The match got underway on a fast pace with striker Christopher Wasasala taking the first shot at goal just in the first minute.
The high intensity of the final saw Akeimi Ralulu cop the first booking in the seventh minute for bringing down Thomas Dunn.
Impressive youngster Netani Suluka managed to sneak past the defence and create an opportunity, only to be denied by the goalkeeper Viliame Rakuro.
Navua opted to launch attacks through counter-attacking moves and Solomon Islander Jackson Wale and Brian Charitar tried to put the Babasiga Lions defence under pressure with their pace and skills.
Edwin Sahayam tested the goalkeeper on a couple of occasions with pile drivers while Wasasala, Ashnil Raju and Nemani Dolodai also had some good attempts.
The teams went to the break goalless but Labasa Coach Intiaz Khan opted to have a more organised defensive line and introduced Sitiveni Rakai in place of Suluka.
Labasa after relentless pressure, finally managed to break the deadlock in the 66th minute as Wasasala rose above the defence and headed in a well curled Sahayam corner-kick.
Navua responded with an attacking move three minutes later and Wale was brought down inside the penalty box by Lekima Gonerau, gifting the Saiyad Ali coached side the opportunity to level the scores.
Solomon Islander Jared Rongosulia slammed the ball into the roof of the net to tie up the match.
Labasa earned over a dozen corner kicks in the remaining minutes of the half but the set-piece opportunity came to no avail as Rakuro time and again pulled off saves.
Dunn had the chance to seal the match for Navua just before the final whistle after beating two defenders and walking in, but his final attempt had no power and landed into the arms of goalie Tamanisau.
With scores locked a 1-1 the match headed into extra time and Doidoi sneaked in with the second and winning goal in the second minute of the first spell.
He was neatly set up on the left flank and broke in and took a powerful shot which had Rakuro gasping in thin air.
Navua replacements Sunny Deol and Suliano Doli tried to get their team back in the match but some rock solid defending by young Shivam Shandil and Sekove Naikavananumi kept the attack at bay.
Wasasala and Doidoi had further opportunities towards the end but poor finishing kept the score-line intact and saw the champions keep the trophy in their cabinet for yet another season.
Extra Supermarket Labasa– Simione Tamanisau (C), Nemani Dolodai, Edwin Sahayam, Ilaisa Nayasi, Christopher Wasasala, Ashnil Raju, Shivam Shandil, Akeimi Ralulu, Lekima Gonerau, Netani Suluka, Sekove Naivakananumi.
Southern Forest Navua– Viliame Rakuro, Jared Rongosulia, Thomas Dunn, Arami Maniumanubai, Brian Charitar, Jackson Wale, Vineet Chand, Alfred Ali, Kolinio Sivoki, Zainal Ali, Matthew Charitar (C).