Fiji Bati proved their three consecutive Rugby League World Cup semi-final appearances were no fluke. Their offloading and powerful edge running – with back-rowers Viliame Kikau and D’Rhys Miller especially prominent – wreaked havoc as the underdogs raced to a shock 24-0 lead in even time. Toa Samoa temporarily stemmed the Bati’s flow and centre Tim Lafai belatedly put them on the scoreboard, but Kikau’s second barnstorming try gave Fiji an imposing 30-6 halftime advantage.
Samoa winger Jorge Taufua crossed twice in the second stanza and fullback Ronaldo Mulitalo produced an exciting kick-and-chase try on the siren. But another three-try onslaught from Fiji midway through the half – including a brilliant 50-metre effort finished off by Brayden Wiliame and a strong solo four-pointer from captain Kevin Naiqama – ensured a momentous 26-point victory few experts saw coming.
“The belief was there throughout the team,” Fiji wrecking-ball Kikau said.
“We knew coming into this week we were the underdogs. Samoa have got big names in their team, they’ve got heaps of NRL players, and we’ve got bit of a young bunch in our team.
“We talked about coming out here, enjoying the game and executing. I think that’s what the boys did.”
A bumper 2019 International Rugby League schedule continues at Christchurch’s Orangetheory Stadium next Saturday, November 9.
Fiji face Papua New Guinea in the opening encounter, before New Zealand and Great Britain square off in the second Test of their series.
The Bati will confirm their place in Group A of the 2020 Oceania Cup with a win – replacing the Kangaroos, who are scheduled to make a post-season tour of Britain – but the Kumuls can snatch that berth with a victory by more than 22 points.
The Great Britain Rugby League Lions then conclude their first tour in 13 years by heading to Port Moresby for a one-off Test against Papua New Guinea on November 16. And after Tonga’s history-making heroics of the past fortnight, few would say an upset is beyond the Kumuls!
GBRL LIONS AND OCEANIA CUP MATCHES
9 NOVEMBER – ORANGETHEORY STADIUM, CHRISTCHURCH
4.30pm Gates Open
5.20pm Fiji v Papua New Guinea
8.00pm GBRL Lions v New Zealand
16 NOVEMBER – OIL SEARCH STADIUM PORT MORESBY
11.00am Gates Open
3.00pm PNG Orchids v England Women
5.30pm Papua New Guinea v GBRL Lions