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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
A 78th-minute Leilani Latu try has delivered the Mate Ma'a Tonga side a 26-24 win over the Fiji Bati in today's second Pacific Test at Campbelltown.
The two Pacific Nations fought out a neck-and-neck battle with the lead changing hands countless times throughout. Fiji led 18-14 at the halftime break - with Tonga behind purely on the back of a couple of missed conversions.
Tonga were first to trouble the scorers when Vatuvei scored courtesy of a simple two-on-one out wide. They added to the early pain for Fiji just three minutes later when Leilani Latu scored off a storming Tony Williams run.
Errors and ill-discipline dotted the next ten minutes before the Fijians finally got on the board 21 minutes in through Bill Kikau, and by the 26th minute they managed to pull ahead with James Storer equalising things before Sitiveni Moceidreke converted.
The see-saw tipped back in Tonga's favour just a couple of minutes after the Fijian's second, with Daniel Tupou dotting down in the corner. Another miss from Lolohea meant the Tongans took a two-point lead toward the break. Fiji weren't done though - Kevin Naiqama raking in a kick that looked bound for the dead-ball line, popping it back in-goal where Ben Nakubuwai pounced to put the Bati back in the lead at the change of ends.
The second half was a fairly quiet affair for the first twenty minutes, neither side troubling the scorers until the 59th minute when the Tongans went left and Moses Suli produced a quality effort to score in the corner. Hingano took over kicking duties and struck a wonderful two-pointer from the touchline to put his side ahead by the same margin.
Fijian prop Daniel Saifiti lumbered over the line to hit back for the Bati in the 65th minute, and they looked set to maintain a 24-20 lead going into the final phase of the contest. Big hits and a couple of concussions followed, with Tony Williams and Kane Evans each having to vacate the field.
The big moment came with two minutes on the clock, when Leilani Latu crashed over for his second try - thankfully for Tonga under the posts. 24-20 became 24-all and with Hingano's effortless conversion from in front, 26-24. Tonga held Fiji out for the remaining 90 seconds to claim the test - and bragging rights ahead of the World Cup which kicks off in October.
Fiji Bati 24 - Tonga 26
Venue: Campbelltown Stadium
Halftime Score: Fiji Bati 18 Tonga 14
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - William Hopoate
2 points - Suliasi Vunivalu
1 points - Leilani Latu
FIJI BATI (24)
Tries: Viliame Kikau, James Storer, Ben Nakubuwai, Daniel Saifiti
Conversions: Apisai Koroisau (2/2), Sitiveni Moceidreke (2/2)
Tries: Manu Vatuvei, Leilani Latu (2), Daniel Tupou, Moses Suli
Conversions: Tuimoala Lolohea (1/3), Mafoa'aeata Hingano (2/2)