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Fijians fly over 'red sea', beats Tonga 14-10 to qualify for Rugby World Cup
6:16 pm GMT+12, 09/07/2017, Tonga

They came, they saw, they battled and conquered the fiery Ikale Tahi 14-10 to fulfil their goal of securing a spot in the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
 
The Vodafone Flying Fijians came out of their comfort zones and stunned the sea of red supporters that turned out in huge numbers and cheered on their warriors at Teufaiva Stadium on Saturday.
 
Inspired by the moving speech of their skipper Akapusi Qera during the jersey presentation on Friday night at the Tanoa Dateline Hotel, our gladiators played their hearts out to bring smiles on the faces of all Fijians.
 
Playing against Tonga at Teufaiva Park was always an uphill battle for any visiting team. It takes guts, determination and courage for any team to win in Tonga.
 
As for the Flying Fijians it was the hunger to secure a spot in the 2019 RWC spot that contributed to their victory.
 
Blood and tears were shed during and after the game as the Fijian warriors upset Tonga in gruelling rugby encounter.
 
Tonga badly wanted a win for their fans but the Fijians were hungry for victory as they extended their win record against the Ikale Tahi to 58 times out of their past 87 encounters. Both teams have drawn on three occasions while Tonga had 26 wins.
 
Fiji's win in Tonga was a special one - not only for coach John McKee but for two players who have gave their very best to make this tour a memorable one.
 
Off-load king Leone Nakarawa made his test debut in 2009 but he didn't complete that game because of an injury that also kept him out of the remainder of the 2009 season.
 
The Kadavu man marked his return at Teufaiva Park scoring the lone Fiji try that helped the team win. The try also showcased Fiji's renowned free-flowing game. Fullback Timoci Nagusa started the move when he collected a the ball from inside Fiji's 40 metre line and dodged past two defenders before off-loading to Nakarawa.
 
The Olympics rugby 7s gold medallist committed two players then threw a 'no look' pass to Patrick Osborne on the flanks. The Highlanders flyer then committed Tonga fullback before passing the ball infield to Nakarawa to score a magnificent try.
 
Nakarawa said he would cherish that special try because it helped Fiji to secure a berth at the RWC.
 
"I made by debut here in 2009 and I am grateful to mark my return with that special try that helped Fiji to secure its berth at the RWC."
 
Another player that badly wanted to stamp his mark was Tongan native Campese Ma'afu. The hardworking prop said he wanted to win for his late dad.
 
Ma'afu said winning for his late dad and playing against four of his cousins made the win sweet.
 
He said he would also cherish the moment knowing his late dad would be smilingly looking down from heavens after the game.
 
"I am glad to help Fiji secure a spot in the next RWC."
 
"Personally it was a big day for us to beat Tonga on their home turf in our cues to qualify for the 2009 world cup.
 
Fiji, after finishing as Oceania's top seed will face Australia, Wales and Georgia in their RWC pool game to be held in Japan.
 
Meanwhile, while the Flying Fijians secured qualification for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the focus will be on the next mission against Samoa this weekend.
 
After battling back from seven points down in the second half to beat Tonga 14-10 in their Pacific Nations Cup clash in Nuku'alofa on Saturday, the Fijians, as the top-ranked Oceania side, will join Australia, Wales, Georgia and either Canada or Uruguay in Pool D in Japan.
 
Qualification was decided over results from the Pacific Nations Cup from 2016 and 2017.
 
The Fijians won both of their games last year, beating Tonga 23-18 and Samoa 26-16 in Suva to notch up eight points. Samoa beat Tonga 30-10 last year in Apia, while Tonga beat the Samoans 30-26 last week in Nuku'alofa to give both teams five points from three games. Fiji travels to Samoa next week for the final game of the tournament where the second Oceania spot will be decided. The second-placed side will join England, France, Argentina and the United States in Pool C.
 
The third-placed team then face a playoff against a European side, with the loser of that game entering the repechage tournament.

SOURCE: FIJI TIMES/PACNEWS


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