24 Jun 2013

Sport: Flying Fijians beat Tonga to win Pacific Nations Cup

5:31 pm on 24 June 2013

Fiji have been crowned the Pacific Nations Cup rugby champions for the first time after defeating Tonga in a winner-takes-all clash in Tokyo.

The Flying Fijians trailed 11-0 early on, but pulled away in the second half to leap-frog newcomers Canada into top spot in the standings.

Head coach Inoke Male told Vinnie Wylie it's a satisfying end to a busy period.

INOKE MALE: Especially after this long tournament, in five weeks we've achieved our aim. So I'm thankful to the boys for their hard work and commitment.

VINNIE WYLIE: Now, it was quite tight there for the majority of the match - I think 14-all early in the second half and then a couple of really decisive tries there which put you guys in control.

IM: I think we didn't have a good start in the opening minutes of the game. Maybe the boys really lost their concentration in the first half, and that's why Tonga came in and scored 10 points ahead of us. Then the boys came in in the second 20 minutes and we managed to level the score.

VW: And, of course, against your Pacific rivals, Tonga, it's always a tough battle against them. And they've been doing very well recently. On their end-of-year tour they had a couple of important victories and are getting some wins in this tournament, as well. To get a win over your rivals, as well, this must be satisfying.

IM: Surely. It's a satisfying result for us, especially the Fiji Rugby Union, eh, in the year that we have celebrated our 100 years of rugby in Fiji. And we definitely need this to put icing on the cake of a good outing with the classics and those three top rugby nations.

VW: And we've seen how well Samoa have done over in South Africa. Obviously they lost their final match against the springboks. Samoa and Tonga are in the top 10 of the world rankings and i guest his will help push you towards that. Pacific rugby has been doing quite well over the last year or two. Another result like this, it's good, as you say, for Pacific rugby, as well, to keep in the international rugby spotlight.

IM: Pacific rugby has been improving over the last few years, eh? Especially Samoa and Tonga. And it's time for Fiji to step up to be with those two island nations. So that's why, this year, all the boys from the European-based clubs (Indistinct). We're trying to rebuild our rugby so thankful for the performance of this tournament.

VW: What about the tournament as a whole? Obviously, it was a new format this year - Canada and the US coming into it, with Samoa obviously not taking part this year. Do you like the format? I know a lot of the countries have spoken about how tough the travel was. Do you think there are improvements that could be made next year? Do you like the make-up?

IM: We like the set-up of the tournament. The only thing is the time of the travel is too short. I think we should have this kind of tournament done in the Pacific Island nations so we can improve our rugby, especially bringing in USA and Canada. It should really improve the morale and the work rate of the place, especially management have to lift up the performance of our coaching level.