4 Aug 2015

Sport: Tonga open Pacific Nations Cup finals day in winning fashion

8:23 am on 4 August 2015

Tonga have beaten Japan 31-20 to finish the Pacific Nations Cup in third place off the back of a three-game win streak.

The 'Ikale Tahi led 16-11 at halftime, despite skipper Nili Latu being sent to the sin-bin for infringing at the breakdown, and scored tries through Halani Aulika, Fetu Vainikolo and man of the match Sonatane Takalua, with Kurt Morath adding 16 points from the boot.

The result extends Tonga's winning run against the Brave Blossoms to four matches.

Tongan first-five Kurt Morath

Tongan first-five Kurt Morath has been in great form with the boot. Photo: Photosport

Canada and USA will square off later this morning to avoid the wooden spoon with Samoa and Fiji to meet in the final.

Pacific pride at stake in final

The two teams are unbeaten following a thrilling 30-all draw in the round-robin.

In the round two game in Sacramento Samoa denied the Flying Fijians victory with a Patrick Fa'apale penalty in the dying moments.

The Manu brought similar drama to the field last week when they left it till the last minute to score the winning try over Canada to book their finals berth.

The physicality of that match has affected the finals build-up with Captain Alesana Tuilagi saying it has been hard to recover in just four or five days while injuries to hooker Motu Matuu, halfback Pele Cowley and centre Paul Perez ruling them out of the final.

The unavailability of Cowley has resulted in the experienced Kahn Fotuali'i joining the squad after he was initially been rested for the tournament.

Fiji will hope for a more disciplined display after nearly coming unstuck when conceding three yellow cards against Japan.

They have made three changes to the pack with Sunio Koto coming in at hooker and Sakiusa Matadigo at number eight with captain Akapusi Qera moving to flanker.

Nikola Matawalu returns at halfback with Asaeli Tikoirotuma starting on the wing and Gabiriele Lovobalavu and Waisea Nayacalevu reuniting in the midfield.