13 Jun 2016

Sport: Flying Fijians coach credits players for comeback win

11:44 am on 13 June 2016

Fiji rugby coach John McKee has credit his players for keeping their focus as they recovered from 15-point deficit to beat Tonga in their opening Pacific Nations Cup clash in Suva.

Viliame Iongi and Sonatane Takulua scored tries to give the 'Ikale Tahi a 15-0 lead at the break but a yellow card to fullback David Halaifonua allowed the home side back into the contest.

Ben Volavola sliced through the Tongan defence to get Fiji on the board before Nemia Soqeta dotted down 10 minutes into the second spell.

Injury replacement Eremasi Radrodro completed the comeback with the winning try six minutes from full time to complete the 23-18 win.

Fiji rugby coach John McKee.

Fiji rugby coach John McKee. Photo: Facebook / Fiji Rugby

John McKee said Tonga have begun to play a more expansive style of rugby.

"They scored two good tries out wide. Certainly from their play over previous years and through the World Cup we saw a bit of a change there. They've still got a very strong direct game but they're quite prepared to chance their arm as well and they took their chances well against us."

Depite making a slow start, John McKee was pleased with the eventual response from his players.

"Credit to our team the way we stayed focused on our game and in the second half probably managed to dominate possession a little bit more and that was reflected in the score...we didn't want to change things (tactically after halftime). I think we wanted to be a little bit more patient - we didn't have a lot of ball in the first half and I felt that when we did get the ball we tried to force the play, resulting in turnovers. We needed to be a bit more patient, trust our gameplan and that paid off for us."

Fiji and Tonga during the Pacific Nations Cup opener in Suva.

Fiji and Tonga during the Pacific Nations Cup opener in Suva. Photo: Facebook / Fiji Rugby

Fiji host Samoa in the next Pacific Nations Cup clash on Saturday.

The Manu drew 19-all with Georgia in their first test of 2016.

With Rugby World Cup qualification in play, John McKee said every match was crucial.

"It's a massive incentive for us with that on the line for this game, knowing that next year we will in all likelihood have to go and play Samoa up in Samoa. You don't want to be going up there looking for a win to secure your qualification. I'd like to try yo get it reasonably secured this year. We really want to target finishing Pacific number one - we feel there's a possibility you might get a slightly better pool draw in the Rugby World Cup in that Pacific number one position."

Tonga will also remain in Suva this week for their one-off test against Georgia on Saturday.

Fiji and Tonga players join together in prayer post-match.

Fiji and Tonga players join together in prayer post-match. Photo: Facebook / Fiji Rugby