CAPTAIN courageous Akapusi Qera led by example to destroy Tonga's hope of beating Fiji in a thrilling Pacific Nations Cup encounter at Lautoka's Churchill Park yesterday.
The tireless skipper successfully led the Vodafone Flying Fijians to a convincing 45-17 win and retained Fiji's rugby dominance over Tonga winning 59 games out of their 88th meetings.
Qera said the criticisms levelled against the team during the week inspired the players to rise to the occasion and delivered the goods.
He gave credit to the Almighty Lord for guiding the team to win their first PNC battle this year and thanked his troops for a job well done.
"We were criticised during the week and today it was payback time for the boys," said Qera.
"It was a tough game and I commend the boys for their performance."
The France-based flanker made some crucial turnovers and huge hits to successfully lead his forwards overcome the much bigger Tongan pack.
His smothering tackle on Tongan skipper Nili Latu in the first spell kept the fans on the edge of their seats as the big Tongan flanker fell awkwardly and fumbled the ball forward giving Fiji the much-needed possession.
Qera combined well with flankers Dominiko Waqaniburotu and Malakai Ravulo pressuring their opponents with big hits and blockbusting runs.
The trio ably supported their tight five players of Manasa Saulo, Tuapati Talemaitoga, Campese Ma'afu, Api Ratuniyarawa and Leone Nakarawa to shock their opponents forcing a tighthead in the first scrum of the game.
The platform laid by Qera's men upfront enabled the backline to showcase their full potential scoring six tries to Tonga's two.
Flyer Watisoni Votu was ruthless in defence throwing his body on the line with two well-time tackles that disrupted Tonga's attacking game.
Halfback Nikola Matawalu was the darling of the fans producing a breathtaking performance from the back of the scrum.
Flying Fijian coach John McKee said he was pleased with the performance of the forwards but admitted there were still room for improvements.
"Our defence was good in the rucks and I think we did well against the Tongan forwards," he said.
"Our scrums were dominant at times overall we have improved from the Italy game."
McKee commended his troops for their grand effort.
Fiji will face Samoa in their next PNC game in Suva next weekend.