March 10, 2017
Hard-hitting Tonga born Number 8 Tevita Tatafu scored a hat-trick of tries as Junior Japan defeated Samoa A 34-31 in the opening match of the 2017 World Rugby Pacific Challenge at the ANZ Stadium in Suva today.
The Samoans entered the match with the favorites tag but their much younger, fitter and determined opponents did their talking on the field and played consistently all throughout.
Samoa opened the scoring early in the first half through Alofipo Talaga and led 5-0.
A double from Tatafu, successful conversions and two penalties from halfback Naoto Saito saw Japan take an impressive 20-14 halftime lead.
Samoan Captain Patrick Faapale converted three penalties to keep his team in the hunt.
Right Lock Koji Iino scored Japan’s third try a couple of minutes in the second half and a successful conversion by Saito extended their lead to 27-14.
Faapale converted another penalties to narrow the scores to only 10 points before Tatafu got his third try of the day after beautifully evading a bunch of tacklers from a pick and drive effort.
Saito was again successful with his conversion.
Samoa staged a late comeback and scored two tries through replacement Kaino Fuataga and flanker Mikaele Tapili, but it was too late for any further scoring effort as the hooter blew straight after the conversion.
Junior Japan meets defending champion Fiji Warriors in its next match on Tuesday at 5.30pm while Samoa A will take on Tonga A on the same day at 3pm.
By Reginald Chandar