Manusina lose 41-13 to Fiji, face repechage to make World Cup
Samoa have missed out on automatic qualification for the 2021 Rugby World Cup after losing 41-13 to Fiji in Lautoka on Saturday evening.
The Manusina now face a game against either Tonga or Papua New Guinea next year, with the winner to represent Oceania at the repechage tournament.
They started brightly with some good phases set up by effective ruck cleanouts.
Some strong carries from second five Billy-Jean Ale and lock Jacinta Ausai got the ball into the 22 early.
They soon lost it forward though, and Fiji were able to advance the ball out of their red zone.
The hosts went wide from a scrum well inside their own half, and fullback Aloesi Nakoci sprinted away down the sideline for the opening try in the ninth minute.
Fiji had the chance to put more points on the board not long after, but turned down a shot at goal for an offside penalty from around 15 metres out.
They lost the ball, and Samoa were able to clear their lines.
The Manusina did not turn down their opportunity for points when it came, as first five Bella Milo knocked over a penalty for offside from around the 22 metre line in the 19th minute
Fiji won their own penalty for offside almost immediately from kickoff, with Lavena Cavuru converting to restore her side’s seven point lead at the 20-minute water break.
Samoa found themselves on the attack when play resumed, and repeat penalties while hot on defence earned Fiji a yellow card.
The Manusina took advantage of their extra player immediately, flinging the ball wide to winger Saelua Leaula to score in the 23rd minute.
They got the ball inside the 22 again, but an intercept and kick ahead saw the Fijiana get out of trouble and onto the attack.
Samoa centre Luisa Gago received a yellow card for a penalty under Samoa’s goalposts, and Cavuru crossed for a try with a big dummy after a quick tap.
Again the Manusina marched into Fiji's 22, but a strong counterruck won the hosts the ball and a penalty.
They took it quickly and found the rapid Nakoci, who sped home for her second long-range try to make it 24-8 heading into halftime.
The Fijiana were beginning to dominate the ruck, which let them disrupt Samoa's ball and force turnovers and penalties whenever players got isolated.
The Manusina kept within striking distance though, keeping the score 24-8 through the hour mark.
Winger Apaau Mailau made a tremendous carry, crashing through some five tackles to put Samoa on the attack.
Fiji centre Mela Matanatabu was yellow carded, and the Manusina had a five-metre scrum.
The hosts were penalised once more for offside right at the line, and Samoa opted for another scrum.
They sent the ball wide to Leaula, however she was well defended and forced out.
Lock Jacinta Ausai stole the resulting lineout though, tapping the ball back to Elieta Taito for Samoa's second try to make it 24-13 at the second water break.
Not long after, Ausai made the mistake of taking a penalty quickly and getting isolated, then being penalised for holding on at the breakdown.
Samoa won it back, but then Milo made the same error, and Fiji pounced.
They took their penalty quickly and found space to run into, with second five Rusila Nagasau putting Priscilla Siata aware for the try that meant the Manusina trailed by 18 with around 10 minutes left.
There was a sliver of hope for Samoa when Matanatabu received her second yellow card for a high tackle.
Repeat penalties had the Manusina advance well into the 22, but eventually Fiji stole the ball back at the breakdown, and blindside flanker Lavenia Tinai scored a counterattacking move which went from one end of the field to the other.
There was time for one more try as well, as substitute Seini Raoma got Fiji's sixth try with the last act of the game.
Fiji 41 (Nakoci 2, Cavuru, Siata, Tinai, Raoma tries; Cavuru 4/5 con, 1/2 pen, Tinai 0/1 con)
Samoa 13 (Leaula, Taito tries; Milo 1/1 pen, 0/2 con)