Fijiana start Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2024 with big win

Unstoppable Fijiana turn on the power and pace to beat Tonga 48-3 on the opening day of the tournament at Sunnybank Rugby Club in Brisbane.

Fiji’s bid to qualify for a second Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 began in style with a 48-3 win over Tonga in the opening match of the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2024.

Outside-centre Vani Arei scored twice in the first half and she was joined in grabbing a brace by openside Sulita Waisega as Fijiana ran in eight tries at Sunnybank Rugby Club in Brisbane, Australia.

Fijiana, however, just failed to beat their record score against a new-look Tonga featuring a host of debutants after their accuracy in attack tailed off in the final quarter.

The winners of the round-robin tournament, which also features defending champions Samoa and Papua New Guinea, will qualify for Women’s Rugby World Cup 2025 in England. And based on the form that they showed on Friday, Fijiana will take some stopping.

However, with two more games  to go, against Papua New Guinea on Wednesday, 29 May and defending champions Samoa on Sunday, 2 June, Fijiana captain and number eight Karalaini Naisewa isn’t getting too far ahead of herself.

“It is just one game at a time, we will try to win this competition to qualify for the World Cup so we are treating every game as a final. So first things first, we’ll go for Oceania and next to our test matches and WXV later,” she said.

Naisewa felt there is room for improvement despite their dominance, adding: “It was not the game plan that we wanted, but we’ll try and come out next week to another level.”

Superior in the set-piece, Fijiana had the perfect platform to play from and their backs looked dangerous whenever they got the ball regardless of where they were on the field.

Tonga started promisingly and actually took an early lead when Shonté To’a kicked a penalty in the 11th minute but the restart led to Waisega scoring her first try and from then on Fijiana were dominant in almost every respect.

Despite some desperate scramble defence from Tonga, it was only a matter of minutes before Fijiana added their second, tight-head Vika Matarugu burrowing over from close range after an initial carry from fellow prop Salanieta Nabuli.

Arei then benefitted from some quick hands and feet from her team-mates to score her first before the ever-dangerous Adita Milinia got on the scoresheet herself.

Tonga’s struggles at the scrum and the lineout continued to cause them problems and a stolen throw led to Arei crossing again, Luisa Tisolo converting for a second time for a 29-3 half-time lead.

Powerful scrums led to Fijiana’s first two tries after the break, scored by Waisega and right-wing Atelaite Buna, while their eighth try came from the lineout, hooker Litia Maraama dotting down from the back of a maul.

That proved to be her last act of the match as she was substituted straight after, and it was also Fijiana’s final try as the remaining 15 minutes were played out without any further points scored.

The opening day’s other scheduled game, between Samoa and Papua New Guinea, was cancelled due to unforeseen circumstances.

Last updated: May 24, 2024, 10:38:06 AM
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