INOKE Male could not have asked for anything better while celebrating his birthday.
The Flying Fijians coach kept all his 49th birthday celebrations on hold until after Fiji beat Japan 25-19 in his first outing in Fiji rugbys hot seat.
Male turned 49 last Saturday while in Osaka and pleaded with his troops to gift him his best-ever present before Fijis opening match of the Pacific Nations Cup in Nagoya on Tuesday night.
As the team sang Happy Birthday afterwards in the changing room beneath the Municipal Mizuho Park grandstand, from where hundreds of supporters rallied behind the team, Male was overwhelmed.
He said it was the tireless efforts of his players against the Asian Five Nations champion that was his perfect gift.
I think the boys really played. It is only our first game and they stuck to the game plan which resulted in the win, Male said.
It is a great birthday present for me. Despite some weaknesses that we saw, we will go back and analyse the game and see where we can improve on.
Male inducted 10 new players who put their bodies on the line as they sought to avenge last years bitter loss at Lautokas Churchill Park.
Fijis scrums and lineouts were tested as the Flying Fijians were penalised on a few occasions in the scrum.
The team also lost two lineouts.
I think it was communication breakdown in the scrum. Thats why we were penalised but we will go back to analyse our game and prepare for the match against Samoa, Male said. Fiji looked like a well-oiled machine in the opening 40 minutes but Japan came back strongly to dominate play in the second spell.
Vice captain and debutant Isake Katonibau scored a brilliant try, beating three defenders on a one-on-one situation in the opening quarter.
Flying Fijians openside flanker Malakai Ravulo was everywhere on the park and delivered one of his best performances for Fiji.
Ravulo was a class above the rest and dominated the ruck.
Males super subs played above expectation to keep the momentum going as Japan came out firing.
I think we will need to lift our game in the next match but I believe the boys played well in the final quarter to contain Japan, Male added.
Katonibau, Waisea Nayacalevu and Vereniki Goneva scored Fijis tries.
Flyhalf Setareki Koroilagilagi nailed two conversions plus two penalties while Japans points came from four penalties and a converted try. Fiji plays Samoa at 3.10pm in Tokyo on Sunday (Fiji time).