Koroibete stars as Fiji defeat PNG in entertaining clash

Marika Koroibete

The Pacific Tests always produce thrillers and the Fiji v Papua New Guinea clash was no different, with the Fijian side producing a 22-10 win on the back of a star performance from Marika Koroibete.

Two first-half tries scored in typical Koroibete fashion and a bone-jarring tackle were the keys behind a historic Fiji win.

The first Test of two, the match was evenly poised at 18-10 after the Papua New Guineans fought their way back. That was short-lived, though, as an intercept try for Fabian Goodall put the game beyond doubt.

Both teams produced some quality play filled with boundless energy, as they toiled, worked hard and put on a show for the fans at Cbus Super Stadium.

With Fiji in control to start the game, the second half saw the PNG side claw their way back in a big way, as they scored tries through Stanton Albert and Matt Trnka.

Following on from those tries, PNG had the ascendancy and attacked the Fijian line with some quality attacking play.

There was a downer for the Fijian side, with exciting prop Viliame Kikau leaving the field early in the second half due to concussion.

The star of the show was Koroibete, though, as he capitalised on solid attacking play and produced a try-saving tackle that no doubt consolidated the Fijian win.

After a strong first half showing, Fiji coach Rick Stone admits that his side let PNG back into the contest.

“We lost our way a little bit with a few errors and we didn’t start the second half well,” Stone said.

“In the end we defended our line strong, we just made things a little bit harder for ourselves.

“One of our main things was to bring Kumuls off their own line and I thought we did that pretty well in the first half. When we got back to it a little bit later in the second half I thought it helped us a bit.

“For the week it is, we had half a dozen NRL quality players with us and a lot of young blokes and a couple of local Fijians. It’s a good result for us.”

With NRL players galore in the Fijian side, the PNG side are yet to boast quality such as that. For PNG coach Mal Meninga, he knows they will all be better for the experience.

“With these guys it’s just about a bit of self belief, I know they’re playing against players that are in the NRL but when they think about it and how well they can be and get some confidence in their own ability they start to play well,” Meninga said.

PNG is all about spirit, heart and determination when playing rugby league and Meninga knows that the confidence and self belief will only grow and develop further.

“These guys, if they show the same sort of character and attitude they did in the second half, more of them will be playing in the 2017 World Cup,” Meninga said.

“It’s about growth and development of the players and certainly a better mindset around their self belief.”

Passion is also a big trait of fans from the island nations, with PNG captain Israel Eliab praising the fans for their phenomenal vocal support.

“Certainly we could hear our fans… it’s like they motivate us, giving us more strength and courage to play for our country,” Eliab said.

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