TWO friends featured prominently on and off the field of play to ensure Labasa came away with a vital point against Ba at the Courts Inter-District Championship yesterday.
Pita Bolaitoga played the coach/player role and his former Labasa teammate Samu Kautoga was as stand-in coach and technical adviser.
Ba scored first when Kavaia Rawaqa turned in a Ba cross for an own goal but soon the teams were back level 1-1 and that's how it finished in this enthralling super premier Group A encounter at Churchill Park.
Bolaitoga went down in the box as he was chased down by Aisea Codro and a questionable penalty was awarded to Labasa.
Up strode Bolaitoga and blasted home the equaliser past a bewildered-looking Ba stopper Epeli Codro.
"We are happy with a point," Bolaitoga said afterwards.
"The boys played according to the game plan. When we went down I told the players to stay patient and that we will score."
Kautoga, who plays for Amicale FC in Vanuatu, called the shots from the sidelines.
Ba coach Yogendra Dutt, who brought on Tuimasi Manuca late in the game looking for a winner, was not satisfied with his team's effort. He was particularly unhappy with some of the long balls his side played under pressure.
"If you play long balls you have to make sure you hit the target," Dutt said.
Ba was without Malakai Tiwa and Ravuama Madigi.
Both teams had chances to win the game but squandered their chances. Posiano Kalisito headed straight at Codro from point-blank range and
Osea Vakatalesau waited too long to shoot when in the clear at the other end.
In the other match in Group A, Rewa and Lautoka played a scoreless draw.
In Group B, defending champions Suva won 2-1 over Nadroga with two goals from Samuela Drudru while a plucky Navua side held Nadi to a 1-1 draw. Nadi netting through Napolioni Qasevakatini and Navua via a Simione Maikali penalty.