Heartland XV finish strongly, but edged in Fiji

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    12 Nov 2016     Getty Images

Nadroga were too quick and strong for the Heartland team and scored some stunning tries, showing off the Fijian flair they are well known for.

The game started promisingly for the Heartland team, with a well-structured set piece move, that once again saw Willie Paia'aua add to his try tally on this tour. James Lash added the conversion from wide out and then slotted a long range penalty goal to have the Heartland XV up 10-0 early on.

The Heartland forwards were working well with good carries by prop Viki Tofa and lock JJ Manning who continued to be a stand-out on the tour with his solid defence and sure hands at lineout time. However, that was the end of the scoring until late in the game for the visitors as Nadroga were spurred into action.

The first try came from impressive centre Meli Kurisaru, who sliced through the Heartland defence after some sustained pressure by the Fijians. And although Nadroga went a man down from a yellow card, their fast-breaking attack quickly saw them on the Heartland line again, with the second five-eighths Tunaisa Turaqaivui waltzing across for the home side's second. The second conversion from under the posts by first five Kini Douglas put Nadroga ahead 14-10.

It stayed this way at half time, despite sustained pressure by the Heartland forwards on the Nadroga line at the end of the half.

The second half started with attacks from both teams, with the feeling that whoever scored first was going to gain momentum in the game. It was Nadroga who took the upper hand with a quick tap from a penalty on halfway and the break from their openside flanker Sireli Kaloucava who offloaded to the big rangy lock Jone Delana to dot down under the posts.

Then five minutes later, his locking partner and captain got in on the act and powered over, again from a quick tap, to take the score out to 26-10.

From there it was a tough mountain to climb for the Heartland team, but coach Barry Matthews emptied the bench which provided the impetus needed to get them back in the game. Loose forward Siua Moala was impressive with ball in hand and was rewarded with a good bustling try.

This was followed by another surge upfield, finished off by captain Kieran Coll. Lash slotted the conversion but it was too little too late as the referee blew full time. So a disappointing end to the tour for the Heartland XV, numbed a little by the exceptional hospitality shown by Nadroga with the singing going late into the evening.