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Monday 20 June 2016 | Published in Regional

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FIJI – Fiji secured the World Rugby Pacific Nations Cup 2016 title and remain on track to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 after a 26-16 victory over Samoa in Suva on Saturday.

The top two teams in the PNC over the next two years will earn a spot in the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Fiji coach John McKee said that means every match is crucial.

“It’s a massive incentive for us with that on the line for this game, knowing that next year we will in all likelihood have to go and play Samoa up in Samoa.”

“You don’t want to be going up there looking for a win to secure your qualification. I’d like to try to get it reasonably secured this year.”

“We really want to target finishing Pacific number one – we feel there’s a possibility you might get a slightly better pool draw in the Rugby World Cup in that Pacific number one position,” he said.

Fiji had to come from behind for the second match in a row in what was a thrilling encounter at the ANZ Stadium in Suva that the Samoans dominated for the opening half an hour, setting a high-tempo and countering from deep whenever they had the opportunity.

Fly-half Seremaia Bai had given Fiji the perfect start with a first-minute penalty, but that was quickly cancelled out by his opposite number Tusi Pisi.

Bai missed with a drop goal and second penalty attempt, but edged his side ahead with a 23rd-minute penalty and added another just before the half hour mark after Fijian winger Waisea Nayacalevu was sin-binned.

Samoa capitalised on their man advantage with hooker Motu Matu’u scoring a try, which Pisi converted to give the visitors a commanding 16-3 lead as Fiji’s error count hampered their progress on a hot day in Suva.

Fiji made the breakthrough just before half-time through hooker and captain Sunia Koto’s try, converted by Bai to cut the deficit to six points at the break.

The second half was all Fiji as they scored 16 unanswered points through three Bai penalties and a try by winger Patrick Osbourne in the dying minutes to wrap up a memorable victory and the Pacific Nations Cup title.

Samoa will complete the 2016 edition next weekend when they take on Tonga, but Fiji will take the advantage in the race to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2019 with the Pacific Nations Cup this year and next to determine the Oceania 1 and 2 qualifiers for the tournament in Japan.

Tonga warmed up for that encounter with Samoa with a 23-20 loss to Georgia in the earlier kick-off at ANZ Stadium.

Georgia, who drew 19-19 with Samoa in Apia last weekend, snatched victory in the dying minutes when centre David Kacharava touched down.

Georgia, who had also beaten Tonga at Rugby World Cup 2015, will complete their first-ever tour of the Pacific Islands against Pacific Nations Cup champions Fiji next weekend.

- World Rugby