HANDLING errors and poor decision making all but dashed the Flying Fijians hopes of winning its first Pacific Nations Cup victory yesterday.
Fiji narrowly lost 26-29 to Samoa at Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo.
The Netani Talei-captained side displayed Fijian flair, running the ball wide and creating opportunities to score tries, however, poor handling stopped the momentum as Samoa turned possession away.
Flying Fijians head coach Inoke Male said they needed to rectify their mistakes before the game against Scotland in Lautoka on Saturday.
"There were unforced errors so it is the decision making of players that we have to iron out before our next game. We need to work on basic individual mistakes. We will show the players video clips of this game and try to work on areas that we need to improve on," Male said.
Despite going down fighting, Male was impressed that Fijian rugby was again displayed against Samoa. Fiji played an unorthodox game which resulted in Nemia Kenatale's try in the 10th minute.
Former sevens captains Watisoni Votu and Vereniki Goneva, and towering lockforward Leone Nakarawa all involved themselves in setting up the opening try. Flyhalf Setareki Koroilagilagi converted the try to put Fiji 10-3 in the lead after trading penalties with opposite number Ki Anufe in the first five minutes.
Koroilagilagi and Anufe traded penalties for the second time before skipper David Lemi neatly placed a kick to set up unmarked flanker Alafoti Faosiliva to level scores at 13-all.
Samoan sevens star Paul Perez was heavily involved in the backline, running inside Anufe to create Lemi's first try. Samoa led 18-13 at the break.
Male said Samoa utilised possession well.
"I think Samoa played well. They had possession and utilised it well and that is why they won today (yesterday).
"We started well in the first 20 minutes but then basic mistakes let us down," he said.
Gracious in defeat Male says his players played their hearts out in the do-or-die clash.
"I want to thank the boys for the gallant effort today," he said.
Lemi completed his brace of tries from a loose ball to put Samoa into a 23-13 lead.
Koroilagilagi added another three points to narrow the deficit 16-23.
Skipper Netani Talei scored a crucial try in the 33rd minute to put Fiji back into the game 21-26.
However, a penalty in the 37th minute put the final nail in the coffin for Samoa to walk away with the victory despite a try from replacement Fiji hooker Tuapati Talemaitoga.
The team returns home to play Scotland this Saturday and Tonga next week.