20 May 2024

Pasifika Sipoti wrap - action from the weekend

4:49 pm on 20 May 2024
Man of the Match Tevita Ikanivere scored two tries against the Reds in Suva on Saturday. Photo: Fijian Drua

Man of the Match Tevita Ikanivere scored two tries against the Reds in Suva on Saturday. Photo: Fijian Drua

Drua down Reds to stay in the race

The Fijian Drua needed a win against the Reds in Suva to keep them in the race for a top eight finish in the Super Rugby Pacific competition.

That was what Tevita Ikanivere and his warriors delivered in front of about 9,000 fans as they romped home to 28-19 win on Saturday.

Their campaign in the match was assisted by the red-carding of the Reds' Fijian winger Suliasi Vunivalu.

In the end the win kept them at eighth spot on the points table.

It also kept them ahead of the Western Force, who are chasing a top eight finish, and close to the Highlanders, who have two points better than them on seventh position.

Coach Mick Byrne said they aim to get a win over the Highlanders in Dunedin on Sunday to consolidate their position.

He said the players will take much confidence from the 28-19 win against the Reds.

"We scrummed well, we carried well," FBC Sports reported Byrne saying.

"Our defence at times was good as we have done during the year so we just need to have that mindset at the start of the game to come out and go after the game like we did and we will be fine."

Captain Ikanivere scored twice and led his pack well upfront.

Flyhalf Isaiah Washington-Ravula had another great game in the number 10 jersey, directing the team's play throughout.

But a worry is how the pack performed in the scrummage battles, getting penalised a few times in the game.

Meanwhile, the Reds' hopes of securing a home semi-final evaporated in a crushing homecoming for fallen Wallabies star Vunivalu.

Vunivalu was sent off following two leg trips.

AAP reported Saturday's defeat left Queensland in fifth spot, an unreachable 11 competition points behind the fourth-placed Chiefs with two rounds remaining.

Vunivalu could not have envisaged such a nightmare return to his native Fiji after leaving his side a player short for 30 minutes of the game.

His first leg trip on Drua flanker Kitiona Salawa left Australian referee Angus Gardner with no alternative than to award the home team a fourth-minute penalty try.

With Vunivalu in the sin bin, hooker Ikanivere also stormed over to earn the Drua a 10-0 lead inside eight minutes.

The Reds hit back with replies from winger Floyd Aubrey and five-eighth Lawson Creighton to only trail 15-14 at halftime.

But Vunivalu's dismissal shortly after the break proved the tipping point.

This time he stuck a rogue leg out that caught his Fiji opposite Selestino Ravutaumada in the lead-up to Ikanivere's second try of the day.

Isoa Nasilasila with fans after the Fijian Drua defeated the Reds in Suva on Saturday. Photo: Fijian Drua

Isoa Nasilasila with fans after the Fijian Drua defeated the Reds in Suva on Saturday. Photo: Fijian Drua

Reds captain Liam Wright said they did not defend well and failed to make an impact early.

"Look, we got punched in the face a bit early. Our contact wasn't good enough," Wright said.

"We've fallen off tackles and Fiji run hard, especially in front of their own crowd. We knew they would after results in the past.

The Reds will finish the regular season with derbies against the Western Force and NSW Waratahs.

The best they can finish is fifth, most likely meaning a knockout quarter-final against either the Chiefs in New Zealand or ACT Brumbies in Canberra is on the cards.

Moana Pasifika down and almost out

Moana Pasifika''s chances to qualify in the top eight of this year's Super Rugby Pacific competition is slim.

Head Coach Fa'alogo Tana Umaga said they still have an outside chance of qualifying, if they can win their last two games.

The weekend's 32-24 loss to the Hurricanes has seen them drop to 11th position on the points table.

They host the Waratahs this weekend and travel to meet the Crusaders next week in their last two matches.

They will need to win both matches and hope that the Drua, the Force and the Crusaders do not win anymore of their remaining games.

Following Saturday's win, the Hurricanes remain on track for a top-two finish.

Following on from their agonising loss to the Blues in a top-of-the-table clash last time out, Hurricanes coach Clark Laidlaw made plenty of changes ahead of their first match back in the capital in two weeks.

Moana Pasifika sensed an upset was likely when they started playing their own game.

Their forward pack kept the pressure on and tries were scored.

But in the end they fell short as the Hurricanes did just enough to secure a win at home.

Moana Pasifika players at the Sky Stadium on Friday night. Photo: Moana Pasifika

Moana Pasifika players at the Sky Stadium on Friday night. Photo: Moana Pasifika

Brumbies ends Crusaders curse

The Brumbies ended their 15-year drought of not winning against the Crusaders at home on Saturday.

A dramatic last-minute penalty try saw them claim a 31-24 win, after the teams had gone into overtime play tied at 24-all.

Flyhalf Noah Lolesio's side-line penalty-goal attempt struck the upright, but the Crusaders intentionally knocked back the bouncing ball in the in-goal.

Coach Stephen Larkham told AAP it was sustained pressure that won them the game in the end.

"I think that's sustained pressure, isn't it?" he said.

"We'd been down there maybe four times in the last 10 minutes of the game trying to get some points.

"And then players who were under a bit of pressure...tapped it out because they thought that was the only option.

"I think it was the right call."

The win means the Brumbies are assured a Super Rugby Pacific home playoff spot.

Rebels suffer heartbreak with late Chiefs loss

The Chiefs did not give the Melbourne Rebels any cause for celebration at the weekend, winning 26-23.

It was star Chiefs playmaker Damien McKenzie who slotted a penalty in the 78th minute to split a 23-all deadlock to secure the win.

The Rebels welcomed their largest crowd of the season to AAMI Park on Friday night with their future in the competition in major doubt.

Rugby Australia are still to decide whether to shutter the financially-stricken club, whose fans turned out in force to honour the side.

In traditional Melbourne fashion, the team ran through a banner that read: "Thank you Melbourne, Always Rebels, Always Fighting"," the AAP reported.

The crowd was encouraged to stand and cheer at the 14th minute of the match to celebrate the 14 seasons the club has been in the competition.

"It was really special," Rebels coach Kevin Foote said. "Probably the thing that really struck me was on 14 minutes when the fans stood up.

"You just see all these people and how much it means to them and it was really, really special and to have the families coming into the sheds now, it's a cool memory for us.

"We didn't get the result, but it's bigger than that."

Force in the hunt for top 8

The Western Force stayed in the hunt for a top eight finish following a 27-7 win over the Waratahs.

The win gave the Perth franchise points that saw them trail the Fijian Drua on the points standing.

The injury-hit Waratahs led 7-0 early in Saturday night's Super Rugby Pacific match in Perth, but the Force piled on 27 unanswered points to snare back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

The hosts thought they had secured a bonus point with a final-minute try, but replays showed Bayley Kuenzle had lost control of the ball while being tackled by three opponents in the corner.

Fijian Drua's 28-19 win over the Queensland Reds earlier in the day meant the Force started the match six points adrift of eighth spot.

They are now just two points behind the Drua with games against the Reds (away) and ACT Brumbies (home) to come.

The last-placed Waratahs are nine points adrift of eighth.

It means they will need bonus-point wins against Moana Pasifika and the Reds - plus a host of other results to go their way - if they are to sneak into the finals.

Canada beat Black Ferns

Canada have claimed the World Rugby Pacific Four Series title for the first time in its current format with a fourth win in as many matches, defeating the Black Ferns 22-19 in Christchurch on Saturday.

Fancy Bermudez scored twice as Canada won a tense and tight encounter and they had to hold off huge late pressure from the hosts, World Rugby reported.

Bermudez's two short-range darts - one in each half - followed impressive close maul work from Canada's forwards as they overhauled New Zealand's early lead at Apollo Projects Stadium to claim a first-ever win over the Black Ferns in the 18th meeting between the sides.

The win means Canada will climb to second in the World Rugby Women's Rankings on Monday with New Zealand slipping to their lowest-ever position of third.

Canada captain De Goede said immediately afterwards that she "had no words" to describe the moment.

"You see out there what it means to this team," she said. "We've been knocking on the door and pushing to make a statement on the world stage for Canada for a while now. And I'm just so proud we were able to do it on the occasion of Tyson's [Beukeboom's Canadian record-breaking] 68th cap."

And she laid all the credit for the win on her side's huge work without the ball.

"Defensively, the stand before half-time, where we kept them out was a really big moment for us," she said. "I'm really proud of the work we did around the breakdown."

AS Magenta's Jean Claude Jewine AS Pirae's Sandro Tau. OFC Men's Champions League 2024, AS Magenta v AS Pirae, Stade Pater, Tahiti, Saturday 18 May 2024. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Part of the battle for possession between AS Magneta and AS Pirae in Papeete on Saturday. Photo: OFC/Phototek

AS Pirae gets into semifinals with goalless draw

Local side AS Pirae have confirmed their place in the semi-finals of the OFC Men's Champions League 2024 following a goalless draw with New Caledonia's AS Magenta at Stade Pater in Papeete on Saturday.

The side had won their opening two matches.

OFC reported AS Magenta - who have one fixture remaining in their group campaign - were looking to build upon an impressive 8-0 victory over Vaivase-tai FC.

In a first-half low on chances but high on intensity, AS Magenta were the brighter of the two sides, Jean-Marie Hmaloko going closest in the early stages with a whipped left-footed free-kick drifting just wide.

The Tahitian club struggled to grab a foothold in the tie. The influential Désiré Ngiamba - Player of the Match against Ifira Black Bird - cutting in from the right before shooting tamely at Mickael Ulile in the AS Magenta goal.

The scrappy nature of the half was typified by a late tackle from Pirae captain Heimano Bourebare, the skipper picking up a yellow card for his lunge on Antoine Pereira de Carvalho.

Pirae picked up their performance notably in the second-half and could have taken the lead through Yohann Tihoni. Intricate link-up play led to the midfielder having space on the right-hand side of the box but saw his effort sliced wide of the near post.

Magenta continued to push however and came within inches of taking the lead with ten minutes remaining. A cross from the right was inadvertently deflected onto the crossbar by Matatia Paama, with goalkeeper Francois Decoret rooted to the spot.

The New Caledonian side almost stole it at the death when the ball ricocheted to Rodrigue Walone, who could only re-direct the ball agonisingly over the bar.

The stalemate leaves AS Pirae top, with AS Magenta needing to avoid defeat against Ifira Black Bird to confirm their place in the semi-finals.

Vaivase-tai FC's Alton Leiataua Ifira Black Bird's Somari Supasongi. OFC Men's Champions League 2024, Vaivase-Tai FC v Ifira Black Bird, Stade Pater, Tahiti, Saturday 18 May 2024. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

art of the action from the Ifira Black Birds and Vaivase-tea clash in Papeete on Saturday. Photo: OFC/Phototek

First half blitz gives Ifira Black Bird win

Vanuatu's Ifira Black Bird FC have earned their first three points at the OFC Men's Champions League 2024 in Tahiti, with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Vaivase-tai FC at Stade Pater.

Beset by travel disruptions, the Vanuatu side struggled in their opening defeat to AS Pirae but were a much livelier outfit this time out, with a few extra days rest and a full squad at Jean Robert Yelou's disposal.

Johnathan Spokeyjack was the key attacking threat for Ifira, breaking the deadlock for his side after just eight minutes, smashing an effort in at the near post past Kirk Auvele.

Three goals in six minutes put the game beyond doubt, with Tonly Kalotang doubling the lead, before Godine Tenene swept home from inside the area to make it three. Spokeyjack then added his second, finishing well after an excellent slide-rule pass set him free.

Kalotang and then Alphonse Lency almost added to the tally, both players striking the crossbar in quick succession as the half came to an end.

The Samoan side stuck to their task however and were rewarded ten minutes into the second half.

Alton Leiataua broke the offside trap with a perfectly timed run, before smashing an excellent effort into the top corner, notching Vaivase-tai FC's first ever goal in an OFC Men's Champions League in the club's 60-year history.

Buoyed by the goal, Vaivase-tai were noticeably improved in the second half but were indebted to goalkeeper Auvele in keeping the scoreline down, making a string of excellent saves as Ifira looked to reassert their dominance.

Jean Robert Yelou's side enjoyed the lion's share of possession but struggled to add to their total in the second period, with Vaivase-tai's defensive line working hard to keep their opponents at bay.

They added a fifth with only a few minutes left on the clock. Substitute Johndas Thomas reacting first to a poor goal kick from Auvele, breaking free to slot the ball under the on rushing keeper.

Auckland City book semi-final spot

Defending champions Auckland City confirmed their place in the semi-finals of the OFC Men's Champions League 2024 after a 5-0 victory over Solomon Warriors FC at Stade Paea on Saturday.

Dylan Manickum was the star for the New Zealanders, scoring a hat-trick as the defending champions flexed their muscles ahead of this week's semi-finals.

The Solomon Islands side were already assured of their elimination, having lost their opening matches, but were impressive in a first-half low on chances. Gagame Feni - so often his side's primary attacking outlet - was again a focal point.

The powerful forward had the first shot in vain, scuffing his effort from the edge of the box straight at goalkeeper Conor Tracey.

As the first period meandered to a close, Dylan Manickum was on hand to give the defending champions the lead. Stipe Ukich's effort could only be palmed out in front of goal by Timothy Maearasia and Manickum tapped into the unguarded net.

Manickum made it two for himself and his side within five minutes of the restart. Substitute Tong Zhou making the most of a loose ball in the box to prod the ball through for Manickum to stab home.

The hat-trick duly followed on the hour mark. Stipe Ukich was adjudged to have been upended in the box and Manickum converted with confidence.

Five minutes later and a second penalty was awarded, Ukich again winning the spot-kick. The winger took responsibility himself, slotting into the corner to make it 4-0 with just over twenty minutes remaining.

The defending champions were showing their class as the second half wore on and a fifth arrived with a quarter of an hour left in the match. Substitute Ryan De Vries showing excellent footwork to create space in the box, before dragging a clever effort inside the near post to wrong-foot Maearasia.

Auckland City must now wait for Group B's remaining fixtures to discover their semi-final opponent, with three of four teams in that group still in the mix for a place in the final four.

Hekari United's Ati Kepo. OFC Men's Champions League 2024, Herkari United v Rewa FC, Stade Paea, Tahiti, Friday 17 May 2024. Photo: Shane Wenzlick / www.phototek.nz

Hekari United and Rewa players tussle for the ball during their pool game in Papeete last Saturday. Photo: OFC/Phototek

Rewa into semi's

Rewa FC secured their semi-final berth with a final minute goal that gave them a 3-2 win against Hekari United FC on the final day of Group A fixtures.

The star was Tevita Waranaivalu, the player slotting in the winning goal late in the second spell.

OFC reported that Hekari United came closest in the opening half an hour, with Ati Kepo and Rex Naime finding themselves in similar positions on the right-hand side of the box, only to shoot tamely at Isikeli Sevanaia on both occasions.

Rewa FC took their time to get into the contest but when they did, their dominance told. A solid run down the left from Epeli Valevou resulted in a cut-back to Samu Kautoga, whose clipped effort sailed over Dave Tomare and nestled in the far corner.

Knowing victory was likely their only passage to the last four, Hekari United came out of the blocks with added impetus in the second period.

Only ten minutes had elapsed when David Muta's side were given the perfect opportunity to draw level. Kolu Kepo tripped in the area, with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.

Joseph Joe assumed penalty duties and cooly sent Sevanaia the wrong way to make it 1-1.

Only seven minutes later, the Papua New Guinea side turned the tie on its' head. Solomon Rani was given far too much space in the box following a one-two with Joseph, beating Sevanaia at the near post from close range.

Hekari United had a number of opportunities to secure the win but struggled to make their advantage tell, as Rewa searched for a way back in.

That way back in arrived with a little over 15 minutes left. Samu Kautoga arriving at the back post to nod in a looping cross for his second and to bring the scores back level once again.

With just seconds left on the clock and Rewa FC's Tevita Waranaivalu determined to get on the score board, a low and powerful strike sent the ball past Hekari's keeper in the 95th minute, ending the game 3-2.

The three point sees Rewa FC confirm their place in the semi-final, whilst Hekari United are resigned to a group stage exit.

Pacific boxers win international titles

Two Pacific islanders won international boxing titles at the weekend.

Australia-based Samoan Jai Opetaia (Jay Oh-peh-tah-iah) reclaimed the IBF World Cruiserweight title after defeating Latvian opponent Mairis Briedis (Maris Bri-dis) on the cards in Saudi Arabia on Saturday night.

Fijian Winston Hill claimed the Asia Pacific-IBO welterweight title in Nadi.

He stopped Australian fighter Jyl Wright in the 8th round via Technical Knockout.

Meanwhile, Oleksandr Usyk (Oh-lack-san Uhh-seek) has become the undisputed world heavyweight champion, defeating Britain's Tyson Fury.

Vanuatu beach volleyball team in Wuhan, China. Photo: Vanuatu Beach Volleyball

Vanuatu beach volleyball team in Wuhan, China. Photo: Vanuatu Beach Volleyball

Vanuatu lose out in China

Vanuatu women's beach volleyball teams could not make it past the Round of 12 at the weekend's Volleyball World Beach Pro Tour Futures tournament in Wuhan, China.

The two teams made up of Linline Matauatu and Majabelle Lawac, with Sherysyn Toko and Loti Joe, lost to China and Australia respectively.

Toko and Joe lost 2-1 to Australia while Matauatu and Lawac went down 2-0 to their Chinese opponents.

The players now turn their attention to the Continental Cup, which will serve as their last qualifying event for the Paris Olympics.

PNG wins two in cricket

Papua New Guinea won two crucial matches at the ICC Under-19 Women's T20 World Cup EAP Qualifier 2024: League in Bali, Indonesia at the weekend.

The team turned the tables on Samoa to win by 26 runs on Saturday, scoring a total of 89 runs against Samoa's 63.

They continued their winning run on Sunday and beat Fiji by 49 runs.

Meanwhile, Samoa defeated Indonesia by eight runs on Sunday, while Indonesia had accounted for Fiji by seven wickets earlier on Saturday.