The Blues Development team came agonisingly close to securing a fourth and final win in their campaign, but a missed penalty attempt on full time saw them go down 14-16 against the Fiji Warriors.
To date the Development team had run in over 40 points a match, beating the Crusader Knights, Chiefs Development and Tonga A, but the Fijians brought huge amounts of passion and physicality to the match that the Blues couldn’t contain.
Both teams will be ruing mistakes, Fiji first five-eighths Kolinio Vunaki missed four kicks at goal, while the Blues squandered several try scoring opportunities from close range.
From the outset it was apparent that the Fiji Warriors had a strong defensive unit and early bone-crunching tackles signalled that it would be a tough match.
James Semple got the first points on the board for the home team; referee Sheldon Eden-Whaitiri penalising Fiji for being offside.
Midway through the first half Fiji took the lead, with two penalties through the boot of Vunaki but yellow card to prop Setefano Somoca gave the Blues momentum.
On attack just 10 metres from their try line the Blues used the one man advantage and spread the ball to the wing, Junior Tofa Va’a cruising over to regain the lead.
Trailing by just two points Fiji’s Vunaki attempted two penalties from a similar position going into the half time break but was unable to convert.
While Vunaki continued to struggle with his accuracy at goal in the second stanza, Semple was on target, extending the Blues lead to 11-6 with half an hour to go.
By this stage the game was being played at a frenetic pace, both teams using the width of the field in trying to break the advantage line and both committing errors †under the pressure of huge defence.
Fiji put together a league-inspired cross field kick to find their way over the try line, Watisoni Votu the recipient of fortuitous bounce of the ball and he was able to run 30 metres untouched to the try line.
Both teams traded penalties, Fiji replacement Jonetani Ralulu finding the posts with 15 minutes to go and in doing so regaining the lead, 16-14.
Fiji had the chance to put the game beyond doubt moments later as Josateki Nasilisili made a huge 60 metre break down field, but the scrambling Blues cover defence forced a knock on.
The suffocating Fiji defence made it hard work for the Blues to get out of their half, but determined to score they managed to make their way up field.
Having worked their way to the opposite try line the Blues were giving it all on attack but everything they had was matched by the determined Fiji players.
In the last play of the game, Fiji gave away a penalty and the ball was handed to replacement first five-eighths Michigan Lam.
Lam pulled the shot just to the right of the posts and as the referee signalled full time the Fiji Warriors were ecstatic with their victory.
Blues Development captain James Parsons said his team showed huge amounts of character to get so close to the win.
“We create a lot of opportunities and couldn’t finish them. Fiji were very impressive. Defensively the were a good unit and they brought a huge amount of physicality to the match”
Fiji Warriors 16 (W Votu try, K Vunaki 2 pen, 1 con, J Ralulu 1 pen)
Blues Development 14 (J Tofa Va’a try, J Semple 3 pen)