IT was local provincial rugby at its best at Sigatoka's Lawaqa Park on Friday evening as rugby giants BLK Nadroga and Tacirua Transport Naitasiri locked horns in the feature match of the Skipper Cup competition where Nadroga came from behind to snatch a 15 - 11 victory.
The much awaited clash really lived up to expectations and fans from both sides including some tourists witnessed trademark Fijian rugby where the ball was moved from one side of the paddock to another and crunching tackles was the order of the day as both teams never gave an inch.
As expected, the game exploded in the first minute and the referee had to caution a few players from both sides as they tried to out-muscle each other.
Nadroga's Jiuta Lutumailagi registered his team's first points on the scoresheet with a successful penalty kick.
Naitasiri skipper Nasoni Roko showed maturity and experience as he led his team well and was ably supported by his vice-captain Senivalati Vunibola who brought back memories of former Fiji towering lock Ilaitia Tuisese as he tussled throughout in the line-outs with his opposite number Epeli Natuikata, who was one of the Stallions key man.
Naitasiri applied pressure rugby to stop the rampaging Nadroga forwards from dictating play and often took the game to the opposition's own 22m mark.
This resulted in Naitasiri's hooker Dan Ligairi scoring his team's lone try in the 37th minute to give them a 5 - 3 lead before Mailka Ligaqaqa added another 3 pointer to give the visitors an 8 - 3 advantage in the first half.
Nadroga regrouped and started to control the run of play in the second spell but Naitasiri, gutsy as ever never allowed Nadroga to control the game.
A miss tackle from a Naitasiri player allowed the slick Nadroga backline to complete a passing movement and allowed Eroni Vaiteri to touch down, Apisalome Waqatabu was spot on with his attempt at goal to give Nadroga a 10 - 8 lead.
Nadroga captain Manoa Tamaya showed a lot of patience with his pack despite being bombarded by some ferocious defence from the opposition. He was rewarded with a try in the 63rd minute to take the score to 15 - 8.
Kini Douglas slotted in a penalty to narrow the scoreline but time was not on their side as the referee blew full time.
Naitasiri coach Eroni Vereivalu said it was a great and fair game.
"We tried to match Nadroga's standard and I am glad we did match them in every aspect of the game.
"Nadroga won. The game was won and lost on the field, sports people will need to accept the referee's decision and move on, many times the referees are scapegoats, if there is someone to be blamed for Naitasiri's loss, it is me because I'm the head coach," said Vereivalu.
Nadroga coach Esala Nauga thanked both teams for a high standard of rugby displayed.
"Our players were really tested by Naitasiri and I'm glad they came out on top.
"In the second spell I pointed out Naitasiri's weaknesses and that's where they scored those two tries,' said Nauga.
Nadroga's referee president Joe Bosoka said compared with the Suva forwards, Naitasiri was far more superior.
"Credit must go to Master Eroni Vereivalu for guiding Naitasiri to that level,' said Bosoka.