A hat-trick to Samoan halfback Penani Manumalealii has led Toa Samoa to a 32-16 victory over the Fiji Bati in the Pacific Test, in front of a loud and supportive crowd at Penrith’s Sportingbet Stadium.
It was a fiery encounter, with a surprise appearance from 38-year-old Petero Civoniceva who returned from retirement into the Fiji side.
The opening ten minutes saw the teams trade sets, with the first points coming from Manumalealii, with his first try in the 13th minute being given the nod from the video referee.
Krisnan Inu converted the try to put Samoa ahead.
The next set the Bati put on plenty of attacking pressure, with Kevin Naiqama chasing down his own grubber kick to score a brilliant try on the right edge, with the scores even after Lote Tuqiri added the extras.
Some big defence from the Bati, including a pair of crunching tackles from Parramatta Eel Semi Radradra, saw the pressure turn back over to Samoa, with hooker James Storer forcing his way through the Toa Samoa defence in the 26th minute to score, converted by Tuqiri.
The Bati’s confidence lifted, and after ending up holding onto an unlikely fifth-tackle high bomb, the Bati saw a chance to nudge over the tryline again.
The ball made it into Tuqiri’s hands 20 metres out and a barnstorming run from the 34-year-old saw him score. He was unable to add the extras, missing his first conversion of the night.
Fiji’s Aaron Groom and Samoa’s Dominique Peyroux both left the field with suspected concussions after a head clash, which seemed to spark some life into the rest of the Toa Samoa side.
Manumalealii scored his second try of the night under the posts, with the conversion easily added by Inu to put the halftime score in favour of the Bati, 16-12.
The second half was all in favour of Toa Samoa, with Manumalealii notching up his hat-trick in the 45th minute to level the scores, with Inu’s conversion putting the Samoa team in front.
Manumalealii was on the receiving end of a Korbin Sims shoulder charge moments later - Sims will face the judiciary this week after being placed on report.
The Samoa side extended their lead in the 55th minute with a try to Carlos Tuimavave off a sneaky chip kick from Daniel Vidot.
Inu was on the money with the conversion, with the score sitting at 26-16 with 25 minutes on the clock.
Winger Daniel Vidot scored am athletic try after Inu plucked the high bomb out of the air and flicked out to the wing.
In the final two minutes, Sam Tagaetese was sent off for an apparent head-butt on Kane Evans, but it did nothing to dampen the Samoan spirits.
TOA SAMOA 32 (Manumalealii 3 tries, Vidot, Tuimavave tries; Inu 5 goals, 1 penalty goal)
FIJI BATI 16 (Naiqama, Tuqiri, Storer tries; Tuqiri 2 goals)