A STRONG defensive play in the second spell helped Naitasiri win its Skipper Cup semi-final thriller with Nadi 15-9 at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori yesterday.
The Tacirua Transport-sponsored side played an offensive game in the opening half, scoring its 15 points, dominating territory to boot the Jack's Nadi side out of the competition.
Naitasiri will travel to Lawaqa Park in Sigatoka next Saturday to play defending champions Nadroga in the Skipper Cup final.
The visitors stormed to an early 3-0 lead when fullback Venisemani Ratubalavu nailed a penalty in the second minute of play.
Naitasiri, then replied via the big boots of fly-half Kolinio Vunaki to even the score.
The big Nadroga man raced down 35 yards to score his team's opening try after intercepting Nadi's attack.
Vunaki then set up a try for inside centre Aporosa Rasavulu and also added the extras.
Ratubalavu landed Nadi's second penalty to trail 6-15 at halftime.
A pep talk from head coach Iliesa Tanivula inspired Nadi to storm back in the second half.
However, the home team's defence was its strength, maintaining discipline in the rucks.
Ratubalavu kicked the only points in the second half to narrow the deficit 9-15 until the final whistle.
Tanivula said Naitasiri was the better team.
"I thought we lost to a better team, Naitasiri played an intense game from the start, we did not really come to play, disappointing but congratulations to Naitasiri," Tanivula said.
"We had patches, we were not really consistent, we made mistakes and it went against us in the end.
"Naitasiri defended really well and we just could not find our way through."
Naitasiri assistant team manager Atu Kuruibou said his troops delivered the goods when it mattered.
Naitasiri skipper Nasoni Roko led his brigade well with good ball carries and timely tackles.
The evergreen Sanivalati Vunibola contributed well while the midfield combination of Rasavulu and Jonetani Vetau.
Kuruibou said Nadroga would be tough and added; "They needed to be at their best next week."