Fiji Bati produced a clinical performance to stun the Papua New Guinea Kumuls 43-16 in Port Moresby on Sunday.
With Maika Sivo and Kurt Donoghue both claiming a double at Santos National Football Stadium, the Bati blew the game open early in the piece with the Kumuls unable to match the visitors' speed and class in attack.
However the Kumuls refused to lie down despite the scoreline, orchestrating two tries late in the second half to keep the passionate PNG faithful on their feet.
The Kumuls opened their account in the third minute when halfback Lachlan Lam shifted the ball left to find fan favourite Alex Johnston who threw a dummy to split the Bati defence close to the line.
Alex Johnston 2nd minute Try
Fiji hit back in the 13th minute when Donoghoe got first touch of a loose ball in the in goal and Brandon Wakeham slotted the conversion to make it 6-4.
The Bati got the ball rolling again on the back of several strong carries and Storm forward Tui Kamikamica capitalised on the field position, carrying several Kumuls over the line to score.
With the Kumuls a man down after Keven Appo was sent to the bin (dangerous tackle), the Bati went further ahead in the 33rd minute after some quick hands from the halves opened up the defence for Waqa Blake, who found Donoghue in support to score. Wakeham hit a field goal on the buzzer to hand the Bati a 19-4 lead at the break.
Parramatta star Sivo dominated proceedings early in the second half, finishing off a left side shift in the corner before intercepting a loose offload and going the length of the field two minutes later to extend the Bati's lead 29-4.
Maika Sivo 48th minute try
Errors and fatigue continued to haunt the Kumuls and the home side were made to pay for an obstruction penalty on their line, with Caleb Navale powering over on the next set for his first Test try.
Despite a 30-point deficit, the Kumuls fought hard to stay in the contest and centre Benji Kot brought the crowd to their feet in the 62nd minute after powering onto a short ball from Johnston out of dummy half.
But the Bati went further ahead in the 65th minute when Test debutant Jason Qareqare darted and weaved his way through the Kumuls defence to race away untouched before the Kumuls had the last say with Epel Kapinias crossing for a consolation try eight minutes before the full-time siren.
Match: PNG Kumuls v Fiji Bati
Week 3 -
Venue: Santos National Football Stadium, Port Moresby
- Kumuls forward Keven Appo was sent to the sin bin in the 28th minute for a dangerous tackle on Bati prop King Vuniyayawa.
- King Vuniyayawa was sent for a head injury assessment in the 28th minute for which he later passed.
- Cult hero Maika Sivo has scored seven tries in his past five Tests for the Bati. Sivo's second0half double, 223 run metres and six tackle breaks also saw him earn player-of-the-match.
- Veteran prop Tui Kamikamica ran 136 metres off 14 carries and made 26 tackles in his 51-minute performance.
- The Kumuls had 28 missed tackles while the Bati had 18.
- PNG backrower Rhyse Martin made 32 tackles and put his hand up for eight carries in a strong 80-minute performance.
Play of the Game
On the back of a Keven Appo sin-binning emotions were running high in the shadows of half-time. But five-eighth Kurt Donoghue came to the fore in the 33rd minute, linking up with Brandon Wakeham and Waqa Blake before pushing up in support to take the ball over the line for a first-half double.
Kurt Donoghoe 32nd minute Try
What They Said
"It’s good for the young kids. We spoke about believing in yourself, it’s a young squad. We talk about the concept of believe before you see and I think a lot of people see us as a young squad and they underestimate us but we keep building. We spoke about if we can control the ruck, we can score from anywhere…if we work hard in the middle we will get rewarded with tries." - Fiji Bati coach Wise Kativerata
"They beat us in all areas of the game. They were better than us defensively, they kicked better so it was a real lesson for us. We were poor disciplined, made a lot of errors and made it very hard for ourselves. I’m really disappointed for everyone that came to watch us today but we’ve got to really fix our attitude for next weekend’s game and we’re lucky we’ve got another opportunity next weekend." - PNG Kumuls coach Justin Holbrook
The Kumuls and Bati will meet again next Sunday to battle it out for the Pacific Cup final. Fiji will be hoping to welcome back Sunia Turuva after the premiership-winning winger was sidelined with a calf injury.