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For heroes

Rashneel Kumar
Monday, June 24, 2013

THE Flying Fijians yesterday ended the winless drought in the Pacific Nations Cup (PNC) competition and dedicated the title to the heroes who have helped shape Fiji rugby in the past.

The national side defeated Tonga 34-21 in its final PNC match at the Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium in Tokyo, Japan to finish on top of the competition with 16 points.

Canada finished second on 13 while Tonga managed third place on 10 points.

Fiji has never won the PNC competition since its inception in 2006, until yesterday, only coming close thrice, finishing as runners-up in 2009, 2010 and last year.

The win is also special for the team which has been trying to redeem itself under the guidance of coach Inoke Male since the disastrous 2011 Rugby World Cup outing.

Elated skipper Akapusi Qera said it was a special moment for Fiji rugby.

He thanked God for the good weather and win and paid tribute to former players.

"It's a very touching achievement because Fiji rugby is celebrating its 100 years and we dedicate this win to them as well as to the rugby players back home, the fans and especially our families," the England-based flanker said.

The Flying Fijians made a poor start which allowed Tonga to take an 11-0 lead in the opening quarter of the match.

Speedster Sireli Bobo broke the Tongan defence midway through the first spell to score Fiji's opening try followed by the second from France-based winger Napolioni Nalaga. Both teams were locked 14-all at the break.

Fiji was brilliant in almost all phases of play in the second spell and ran in two more tries through Nemani Nadolo and Nalaga for the 34-21 bonus point win.

Prolific Seremaia Bai kicked 14 points in conversions and penalties.

"We lost some control in the first half but I thank the boys for the effort through which we were able to score the maximum points needed to win the title," Qera said.

The PNC win is also expected to improve Fiji's 14th place ranking.

The team arrives home on Wednesday morning.

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