Papua New Guinea has secured a historic 24-22 victory over Tevita Cotrell’s Fijian Bati side at Pirtek Stadium.
South Sydney centre, Cotrell, featured for the Bati coming off the bench in the sides defeat. North Sydney Bears players, Jokatama Dokinavalu and Sitivani Moceidreke also took the field for Fiji, with the latter coming up with two try assists and two conversion.
As expected, the opening sets of the game were characterized by bruising tackles and explosive runs from both sides, yet it wouldn’t take long for Papua New Guinea to go on the attack.
The Kumuls would register the first points of the night, as Fiji custodian, Tyrone Phillips, failed to diffuse a towering bomb, with halfback, Watson Boas, pouncing on the loose ball to score under the posts. The extras were secured by Ase Boas, setting up a 6-0 score line.
Almost immediately after the first try, Papua New Guinea secured a penalty deep within Fijian territory. The Kumuls opted for the two points on offer, with Ase Boas making no mistake with the kick, leaving the score line at 8-0.
It would not be long before Fiji bounced back, with Maurice Kennedy linking up with Eloni Vunakece, who couldn’t be stopped from close range. Kennedy added the extra points to make it 8-6 in favour of the Kumuls.
Fiji would level the scores soon after, as North Sydney Bears player, Sitiveni Moceidreke, took over kicking duties to slot a penalty goal.
Soon after, Moceidreke was once again in the thick of it, as the pivot provided a pin-point kick for his winger, Etuate Qionimacawa, who spectalularly caught the ball before scoring in the corner. Moceidreke was unable to add the extras from the touchline, with the score remaining 12-8 to the Bati.
It appeared that Fiji would score again in quick succession, as Tyrone Phillips bolted up the field only to be taken in a courageous one on one tackle by Kumuls skipper, David Mead. With Papua New Guinea’s defence scrambling, winger, Justin Olam, was deemed to have committed a professional foul through slowing the play of the ball in an offside position resulting in a sin-binning.
Fiji quickly made the most of having an extra player on the field, as Sitiveni Moceidreke once again kicked for Etuate Qionimacawa, who scored his second try out wide. Moceidreke was unable to convert the try from an identical position as his first failed attempt, leaving the score at 16-8 heading into the sheds.
On resumption, the Kumuls would reduce the deficit, as Kato Ottio busted through the Bati defensive line at pace to score a four-pointer. Ase Boas converted the try, setting up a 16-14 score line.
Papua New Guinea’s strong start to the second stanza continued, as Wartovo Puara provided a brilliant face ball to Watson Boas, with the halfback diving over to bag his second try of the evening and give his side the lead. Ase Boas could not build on the advantage, coming up with his first miss of the match and leaving the score at 18-16.
Minutes later, it appeared that Watson Boas has secured a hat trick, but it was deemed that double movement had occurred as the livewire planted the ball.
After a period plagued by tired defence and handling errors, it appeared that an upset was on the cards as Nene Macdonald continued the Kumuls second-half dominance scoring a four-pointer out wide. Ase Boas converted the try, meaning that Papua New Guinea’s advantage extended beyond a converted try at 24-16.
Just as it appear that Fiji were on the ropes, the Bati were able to bring the game back to life as Etuate Qionimacawa bagged his hat trick. The conversion from Sitiveni Moceidreke was successful, meaning that Fiji trailed 24-22.
Despite some desperate attacking plays from Fiji, the Kumuls held strong in defence to secure their first international victory outside of Papua New Guniea since 2000.
Papua New Guinea 24 (Watson Boas 2, Katio Ottio, Nene Macdonald .tries; Ase Boa 4, goals)
Fiji 22 (Eloni Vunakece, Etuate Qionimacawa 3,. tries; Maurice Kennedy 1, Sitiveni Moceidreke 2, goals)