Naiqama shines as Fiji spank Samoa


Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - Page 18

Wes Naiqama scored 14 points as Fiji beat Samoa 22-4 at Warrington’s Halliwell Jones Stadium on Sunday to secure a Rugby League World Cup semi-final spot against Australia.

Naiqama, who plays for Penrith Panthers in Australia’s National Rugby League, kicked 10 points and helped himself to a first-half try.

Aaron Groom and Junior Roqica also crossed the whitewash for the Bati, who face nine-time winners and tournament favorites Australia at Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday after the Kangaroos thrashed the US 62-0 in their quarter-final.

Holders New Zealand face England in Saturday’s other semi-final.

For Samoa, whose previous best effort on the world stage was in 2000 when they also lost in the quarter-finals, an Antonio Winterstein try was all they had to show for their efforts.

Fiji raced into an early lead after Akuila Uate broke through the Samoa defense and passed to Groom, who fended off two despairing tackles to score.

Naiqama converted the try and added two more points in the 10th minute with a penalty-kick after David Fa’alogo’s illegal shoulder charge.

Samoa suffered another blow when Penani Manumalealii went off with a suspected arm injury and was replaced by Mose Masoe.

Samoa looked to create an opening after the 20-minute mark when Tim Lafai wrestled Uate into touch for a scrum in a promising position.

However, Anthony Milford’s grubber-kick on only the second tackle was collected by Uate, who subsequently missed an opportunity to punish the fullback in the 26th minute.

As Fiji quickened the tempo, Kevin Naiqama threw a long pass to the winger, but Uate dropped the ball in sight of the try-line.

However, Fiji extended their lead in the 33rd minute with Naiqama’s try, awarded by the video referee after a suspicion of offside.

An inventive grubber-kick bamboozled Samoa winger Winterstein and allowed the opportunistic Naiqama to score easily and also add the conversion.

Samoa returned after halftime with renewed vigor, but they were forced to defend desperately when Marika Koroibete charged forward.

Koroibete was heavily involved soon afterwards, as his powerful run and brilliant offload allowing Fiji to continue their attack, only for Samoa to nullify the threat.

However, Samoa finally struck in the 58th minute after their top tryscorer Winterstein dived in at the corner following an impressive period of quick ball.

Tensions boiled over in the 67th minute when Lafai’s crunching high tackle sparked a full-blown fracas, with referee Richard Silverwood quick to intervene.

Wes Naiqama’s 100 percent record with the boot continued when, from the resulting penalty, he pushed Fiji’s lead out to 12 points.

Samoa tried to rally with fewer than 10 minutes remaining, but could not find a way through Fiji’s defense.

Man-of-the-match Groom aimed to torment Samoa further in the 76th minute, but his smart kick bounced away from Uate’s reach.

Nevertheless, Fiji added gloss to the scoreline when Roqica went between the posts following some weak defending by their Pacific Island rivals.

Naiqama duly added the extra points, before the buzzer sounded to seal Fiji’s commanding victory.