THE loss of his only child failed to deter Davetalevu halfback Sakiusa Najuwawa from helping his side being crowned the new T16 champion in the Nadroga Rugby Union club competition over the weekend.
Najuwawa buried his one-year-old late son Apisai Meo, who succumbed to an illness on Thursday, and turned up to witness his side take on Mobile Tuva in the showdown at Lawaqa Park on Saturday.
He was not part of the initial squad as the club decided to give the heavy-hearted father time to recover from his untimely loss.
The 28-year-old cousin of former Fiji 7s rep Ulaiasi Lawavou was included in the side in the eleventh hour by Davetalevu coach Nimilote Dau.
Little did Najuwawa know the long-lasting sorrow would get some solace from the game he loved above all — rugby.
He came in as a replacement in the match which ended in a three-all draw.
The score remained the same after the extra time play and it was left to penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Tuva's Kelevi Niunisavu missed his target but Davetalevu's Sikeli Bola was spot on to give his side a 6-3 lead.
Second kickers from both teams Pita Natoga (Tuva) and John Bruce (Davetalevu) were both successful for a 9-6 score in favour of Davetalevu.
Alipate Vacelei of Tuva calmly slotted in the ball between the uprights to level the match 9-9, bringing relief to the vocal Tuva fans.
It was Najuwawa's turn to shine and the right footer took three steps backwards and another three sideways, paused, glanced at the uprights, paused again, slowly moved forward and split the uprights to give his team a 12-9 win.
"I didn't train with the team the whole of the week because I was tied with the funeral of my only son," an emotional Najuwawa said.
"I came to watch the match but the coach asked me to play, I apologised to the players but they understood my situation.
"It has been a difficult time for my family. When I got that opportunity I said 'I will not miss this, this is for my son'.
"I could even see him when I closed my eyes for a short prayer before taking the kick."
Davetalevu manager Neumi Mohi said the team had decided earlier to dedicate the match to the late toddler Meo.
"But never did we thought that MeO's daddy would be the one to give us victory."