(Reuters) - An ill-disciplined Fiji managed to stand firm despite having three players yellow carded as they held off a frantic fightback from an error-prone Samoa to record a 24-22 victory in their Pacific Nations Cup clash in Suva on Saturday.
The Fijians had centre Jale Vatuba and captain Akapusi Qera sinbinned by New Zealand referee Mike Fraser for dangerous tackles in the first half, while replacement prop Eroni Mawi followed suit in the second for a professional foul.
The home side, however, capitalised on a plethora of Samoan errors to build what was essentially a match-winning 17-3 lead by halftime with tries to fullback Kini Murimurivalu, flyhalf Ben Volavola and scrumhalf Henry Seniloli.
Vereniki Goneva extended the lead to 24-3 with 30 minutes remaining only for the Samoans to finally string together some possession and dominate the rest of the contest.
Scrumhalf Melani Matavao sparked the fightback with a 59th-minute try before flanker Jack Lam and replacement scrumhalf Dwayne Polataivaia both crossed to give the Samoans hope of snatching a late win.
The tournament is being used as preparation for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan, with Georgia to face Fiji next week, while Tonga play Samoa, who still have to qualify for the global tournament through the last-chance playoffs.
Reporting by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by John O'Brien