Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
Fiji have produced a dominant display to seal a semi-final date with Australia after defeating Samoa 22 points to 4 in front of 12,766 fans at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington.
It was set for a tough and physical encounter for the final semi-final spot between Fiji and Samoa. Neither team gave an inch in the opening five minutes with the two sides looking to earn field position.
Fiji would strike first though with Akuila Uate who was rested from the Fijian's final pool game. He burst through the defense to open up space before he sent Aaron Groom away for the opening score.
The Fijians were forcing their way over the advantage line, bending the Samoan side back earning penalties. Wes Naiqama stepped up to put the advantage out to eight after ten minutes.
Samoa would work their way into the contest with some solid possession but weren't able to find that final ball. It was breaking down constantly through the halves through a failure to get to a kick or an errant pass.
In contrast - Fiji were on point with their kicking game as Aaron Groom was pinning the Samoan side back. He produced a towering bomb which was spilled then a stabbing kick that was plucked by Wes Naiqama to give the Fijians a 14-0 advantage at halftime.
It was more of the same in the opening twenty minutes of the second stanza, as Samoa were getting into position but weren't able to convert their chances. Fiji were scrambling well to deny them any chance.
Ben Roberts put himself back into the good graces with an accurate kick that trapped Kevin Naiqama in-goal. Samoa finally cracked the stubborn Fijian resistance with Antonio Winterstein going over in the corner.
That would be the final blip on the radar for the Bati. They added another penalty goal to Wes Naiqama to extend the lead back out to two converted tries.
Samoa were close on the scoreboard but it was a vast difference on the football field. Samoan passes were hitting the ground whilst Fiji put together a slick interchange of passes to seal the victory with a Vitale Roqica try.
Fiji are moving in the competition while Samoa are going home with a disappointing campaign marked by key injures. Fiji face the Australian juggernaut in a repeat of the 2008 semi-final at Wembley.
Samoa 4 Fiji 22
Venue: Halliwell Jones Stadium
Halftime Score: Fiji 14-0
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Aaron Groom
2 points - Akuila Uate
1 point - Mose Masoe