May 21, 2022
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Holders Naitasiri escape with late win

Holders Naitasiri overcame Northland 10-6 in a brutal Farebrother Trophy Challenge at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori today.

Northland looked adamant to wrestle the trophy from the points leaders, but the highlanders held firm to survive the fifth challenge.

Northland got first points on the board through fullback Jovilisi Taraka as Naitasiri infringed on the offside line to delay the attack, with Skipper Manueli Laqai pointing to the posts and Taraka making no mistake just four minutes in.

A moderate breeze at the ground and touch finders on both sides found their kicks pushed back into play.

Naitasiri began to stick some passes and pushed the game into Northlands 10 metre.

Multiple sorties from the holders looked lethal, but the staunch defence from the challengers was just as brutal.

Northland came hard just after 20 minutes intent on extending their lead, and with strong carries began to push the Naitasiri defence.

Openside flanker Talatala Tokaibai managed to break through the black wall but lost the ball in the contact.

Naitasiri were penalised inside their 10 metre after nit holding up their side of the scrum, but Taraka's chance to double their lead was slighty the left of the target.

Naitasiri went on the offensive with half-time rearing its head eager to get on the board.

Hard running from the inside pair of Peni Tubuna and Filimoni Waqainabete saw them bring the team within strking range.

The eager blue and gold defence were caught offside and the following penalty had the fullback Kini Douglas take a successful kick at goal to level the scrores with 35 minutes to go.

Naitasiri were reduced to 14 men after openside flanker Tomasi Naiduki was sent of for a late charge, but again Taraka could not convert another crucial penalty.

The teams headed to the break all level 3-3..

Naitasiri were reduced again to 14 as soon as they had their full compliment with lock forward Marika Natau sent off for a dangerous tackle.

The game lifted for both sides as the game went into the last 30 minutes.

The Naitasiri side began to bring their formidable backline more into play but the passes were hard to handle.

Naitasiri blind wing Peni Tubuna made the biggest break of the day with a barnstorming 40 metre burst off a setpiece scrum in midfield.

The penalty count began to mount for the visitors from Korovou as the black machine began to find space on the edges.

The black machine rumbled forward into the Northland five metre for the first time in the game.

Captain Sireli Kaloucava looked to have crossed the line but was held up, the game goes back to the five metre as a penalty had been given for offside.

No matter the result, the Northland defence was the darling of the day as a well calculated five metre setpiece move off the scrum was foiled when a big hit dislodged the ball from Waqainabete on his way over the tryline.

Naitasiri tried again and again and finally, in the the 27th minute of play were rewarded.

A number of pick and drives through the tiring gold defence had substitute looseman Sitiveni Kaila crash over the paint with Douglas adding the conversion to give them a seven point buffer.

Northland substitute outside centre Ilimeleki Liloma reduced the deficit to four points with from 40 metres out with a beautifully struck penalty kick three minutes from full-time, which seemed to signal a fight back.

But the black wall held firm to see them return provincial rugbys most prized possession back to the highlands.

The teams:

Naitasiri: Asiveli Rokoua, Jone Vatukela, Inoke Ravuiwasa, Esikia Macu, Marika Natau, Jone Navori, Tomasi Naiduki, Sireli Kaloucava, Anasa Raqili, Josua Yavala, Josavani Drava, Peni Tubuna, Filimoni Waqainabete, Kaliova Mocetadra, Kini Douglas, Jone Naqiri, Maciu Nasila, Joeli Veitayaki, Sitiveni Kaila, Maciu Vakacabeqoli, Simi Drotini, Vatili Vosawale, Uraia Torau.

Northland: Saiasi Koroi, Osaia Seru, Immanuel Naciva, Lorima Nodrakoro, Jone Tukana, Josateki Seru, Talatala Tokaibai, Manueli Laqai, Suluka Tunaka, Livai Ikanikoda, Jo Kelekelevesi, Waisea Nasekai, Pita Wilson, Sikeli Valadewabuka, Jovilisi Taraka, Sevanaia Raciuciu, Osea Sauvi, Sakeo Naivota, Samisoni Tubailagi, Malakai Namalo, Inia Batikota, Ilimeleki Liloma, Epeli Basituka.

By Noa Biudole

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