Farebrother Challenge: Naitasiri wins

Naitasiri celebrate after defeating Tailevu 27-13 to retain the HFC Bank Farebrother Trophy at Ratu Cakobau Park yesterday. Picture: JONA KONATACI

NAITASIRI rugby team coach and former Flying Fijian Koli Sewabu said vanua support and his players’ determination and sacrifice resulted in his province regaining Fiji’s coveted rugby silverware, the HFC Bank Farebrother Challenge trophy this year.

Naitasiri beat Tailevu 27-13 at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori yesterday to keep the trophy it lost about a decade ago.

The hillmen were patient absorbing the high tempo rugby thrown to them by the challengers in front of a packed Nausori ground.

Both teams were coached by two former national number eights — Sewabu for Naitasiri and Inoke Male for Tailevu. Naitasiri scored four tries and a penalty against Tailevu’s try and two penalties.

“This is a win for our province,” Sewabu said after the match.

“We did not start well in the season because of some differences, but we regrouped, put our differences aside and worked together. Today (yesterday) we reaped the fruit of our working together. As a coach, I am very, very happy.

“I thank the Almighty, the vanua, the province of Naitasiri, and especially the players, the coaches, the trainers and the former players who came together to help in getting the trophy back.”

Naitasiri scored in the sixth minute through flanker Filimoni Seru.

He was at the receiving end of a four-phase Naitasiri attack which was finished by the forwards in a drive towards the Nausori International Airport side of the park.

Six minutes later, a high tackle from Naitasiri saw Tailevu pivot Etonia Rokotuisawa splitting the uprights for 5-3 to Naitasiri before winger Sailosi Taka dived over for a converted try in the 33rd minute to change the lead 10-5.

It erupted the stands. The green flags swept the stands and the Tailevu chants filled the Nausori skyline.

But the excitement was cut short 10 minutes later when Naitasiri skipper Inoke Tuisese crashed over for his try. Converted by Kini Douglas to see the scores 12-10 to Naitasiri at the break.

When they returned, they sensed they will take the cup up the highlands, and with patience they weathered the Tailevu endless attacks and ball scavenging. Naitasiri held firm.

Prop Mosese Gavidi scored in the 42nd minute to see them ahead 17-10. Fullback Meli Nakawara, who will play in the National Rugby Championship soon, crashed over in the corner like tank and his Warriors teammate and Flying Fijian Frank Lomani converted for a 24-10 scoreline.

Tailevu slotted a penalty to take the scores to 24-13, but Lomani0 scored the last three pointer of the day to crown his province the HFC Bank Farebrother Challenge trophy winner of 2018.

“It’s been a while since the trophy is back with us and it was not easy trying to beat Nadroga and Tailevu.

“I knew Male would play smart, but we did our profiling and tried to avoid a lot of contacts with their heavy forwards.”

Tailevu skipper Salua Qalomai conceded defeat saying his side failed to capitalise on Naitasiri’s weak points.