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Fiji Time: 11:58 PM on Saturday 19 April

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Rugby history

Arin Kumar
Sunday, December 15, 2013

THEY won the battle but lost the war.

That is exactly what happened to the East side in the last AON East versus West challenge at the ANZ Stadium in Suva yesterday when they won 26-19 over West.

But the overall title was won by the West because they had accumulated more points than East in the competition.

Both teams drew 22-all in the first match, West won the second clash 35-21 and their 19-26 loss gave them a total of 76 points while East finished with 69.

East needed to win the match by 15 points or more to win the overall title and that looked to be the case when they were leading 13-5 at halftime.

But West rallied back and scored two converted tries in the second half to close that gap to seven points and prevent East from clinching the title.

East coach Eroni Vereivalu said they were happy to win the final match but the win was not enough to give them the overall title.

"The immaturity of the young players in the first two matches really stood out and that is why we were behind going into this final match," he said.

"But the inclusion of senior players like players from the Flying Fijians team and those from the Sukuna Bowl added experience in the team and that really helped us win."

West team manager Tiko Matawalu said East was the better team on the field but at the end of the day, it was the overall title that mattered the most.

"We have created history by becoming the first team to win this new trophy that the Fiji Sports Council has introduced in the revived East versus West challenge," he said.

"So now all the major rugby titles will rest in the Western Division till next year and we are happy with our performance overall."

He said being down at half-time, they realised the title was slipping out of their hand and so they asked their players to give a better performance in the second half.

"The message at half-time was for the players to settle down and adjust to the weather conditions because it was raining and to adjust to the newlook East side.

"The boys did that and made the right decisions when it mattered the most and managed to score tries.

"It was late but we managed to pull through in the last stages to do just enough to ensure that we win the overall title."

West started the match on a high note with an unconverted try to fullback Apisalome Waqatabu but then it was East from there for most of the second half.

Flying Fijian Waisea Luveniyali kicked a penalty, halfback Henry Seniloli latched onto a chip kick by hooker Manasa Tuidraki to score under the posts for an easy conversion to Luveniyali for a 10-5 lead.

Luveniyali nailed another penalty a minute from the half-time break to extend their lead to 13-5.

He slotted two more penalties early in the second half and then knocked over another easy conversion when fellow Flying Fijian Levani Botia toed the ball ahead and dotted under the posts to take their tally to 26.

West clawed their way back into the match with tries to Eremasi Radrodro and Waqatabu who also converted both tries to end the match at 26-19.

More on PAGE 26.