Fiji’s first loss to Canada since ’95

fiji_pnc_vs_canadaRay Barkwill scored the winning try and Canada held on to defeat Fiji 20-18 in Pacific Nations Cup men’s rugby action Wednesday night.It was Canada’s first win over Fiji since 1995, and the first ever on Canadian soil.The Fijians made it close, mounting a late rush to win the game. With Canada leading 20-11 Qera Akapusi punched his way across the try line and Jiuta Lutumailagi scored on the conversion to make it 20-18. But Canada managed to hold on for the win to the delight of the 4,548 on hand.

Canada trailed 11-10 heading into halftime, but quickly regained momentum after scoring in the opening minutes of the second half. Connor Braid punted the ball into the try zone and Harry Jones rushed in and claimed the ball to score five points.

The Canadians appeared poised to take complete control of the game after Taylor Paris ran the length of the field, but a last second change of direction in his trajectory led to Canada being called for a forward pass.

Barkwill made no mistake minutes later, running into the try zone after some great passing to give Canada a 20-11 lead.

It proved to be the winning play of the game.

After a number of close chances Canada opened the scoring early in the first half as Aaron Carpenter clawed his way across the try zone. Braid was successful on the conversion kick giving Canada a 7-0 lead.

Minutes later Fiji’s Nadola Nemani managed to weave his way through traffic and found an open lane on the outside to run into the try zone. Koroilagilagi Setareki’s conversion attempt went just wide making it 7-5.

The two teams then went on to exchange penalties. The Fijians took their first lead of the game as Setareki converted his first penalty kick.

Braid split the uprights to reclaim the lead, however it was short lived as Canada took another penalty and Setareki made the most of his opportunity giving Fiji an 11-10 halftime lead.

The Canadians will now return to Kingston, Ont., where they have been training since late May, to face Tonga on Saturday. After a non-tournament match against Ireland in Toronto on June 15, they will make the trip to Japan to wrap-up Pacific Nations Cup play on June 19.

Fiji will next play against the U.S. June 19 and against Tonga June 23. Both games will be in Japan.

While claiming the Pacific Nations Cup would be nice, Rugby Canada has set its sights on a two-game, total-point series against the U.S. in August. The series winner will clinch a spot in the 2015 World Cup in England, while the loser will be forced into a secondary qualifying process.

Fiji is now 1-1 in Cup play, while the Canadians are 2-0.