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3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Christchurch has played host to one of Rugby League's most exciting see-saw battles this year as Fiji took a 22-20 victory over PNG in the final instalment of the 2019 Oceania Cup.
The game was a tight affair for the opening 20 minutes with neither side able to put any points on the scoreboard despite the Fijians having an early chance at points knocked back by video referee Shayne Hayne after a knock-on from Suliasi Vunivalu was spotted.
The opening try of the match was scored in the 23rd minute when the PNG defence eventually succumbed to the pressure that Fiji had applied for repeated sets when Tui Kamikamica was able to get over the line to score.
It wasn't long before Papua New Guinea were able to bring the scores back level when Rhyse Martin was able to get through and take a deflected kick from Kyle Laybutt to score. Martin needed to wait for the video referee approval for it to be given before he converted his own try.
The story of the game was a case of 'anything you can do we can do better' and indeed that was the case again when Fiji took their turn to add another try just under five minutes later when the speed of Maika Sivo was utilised by Fiji to get on the outside of the PNG defence and Sivo's speed created space before the Parramatta flyer found Brayden Wiliame to score.
The Kumuls had the last of the scoring plays in the first half with Watson Boas getting the final try of the half as the Fijians forced an offload but lost the ball, so it was cleaned up by PNG and Boas put the speed on to score. Rhyse Martin converted the try and then slotted a penalty goal after the siren to give Papua New Guinea a 14-12 lead at the break.
The game was set for a close second half and that's what both sides were able to deliver when Fiji put themselves back in front just four minutes into the second half when Viliame Kikau used his size and skill to get through the Kumuls defence to score in the left corner. The conversion attempt from Brandon Wakeham was waved away.
Just like the first half, the lead was quickly snatched back by the Kumuls when Edene Gebbie went 70m through the Fiji defence to score a try and snatch the Kumuls the lead back. The game then went for 10 minutes without a period of points before Fiji took the lead back through big Ben Nakubuwai who scored under the posts after some good strength.
The Kumuls this time weren't able to fight back despite being denied by the officials twice with Justin Olam called offside on a 60th minute effort and then five minutes later were called back for a forward pass.
Both sides had chances to add points but neither could get across the stripe and Fiji secured the Oceania Shield with their 22-20 victory. The win puts them into Tier A for next year's series.
Fiji 22 - Papua New Guinea 20
Venue: Orangetheory Stadium
Halftime Score: Fiji 12 Papua New Guinea 14
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Viliame Kikau
2 points - Watson Boas
1 points - Maika Sivo
Tries: Tui Kamikamica, Brayden Wiliame, Viliame Kikau, Ben Nakubuwai
Conversions: Brandon Wakeham (3/4)
PAPUA NEW GUINEA (20)
Tries: Rhyse Martin, Watson Boas, Edene Gebbie
Conversions: Rhyse Martin (3/3)
Penalty Goals: Rhyse Martin (1/1)