Replacement inside centre Jone Manu kicked a last-minute penalty as Subrails Army defeated TotalEnergies Police 18-17 in the FMF Sukuna Bowl at the ANZ Stadium in Suva.
Manu came on in the second half and was tasked with the responsibility of taking the kick after consulting flyhalf Jeke Suguturaga.
The former Fiji 7s squad member cooly converted the penalty that silenced the thousands of vocal Police crowd.
Speaking after the match Manu says he had to do it for his team, fans, and their families.
“The boys have been camping for quite a long time and we had been going through such a hard training session and that was all that was going through my mind. I really wanted to make the kick to make them proud and our families and our Mataivalu.”
RFMF Commander Major General Jone Kalouniwai who earlier said he wanted a win in his first year got his prayers answered and thanked the team for their efforts.
“I’d like to thank the Lord for giving the strength to the boys to win the game today. Much credit to the Police team, they played a really good game. As I said we were coming in with surprises and the surprise came out in the last quarter.”
Police captain Ulaiyasi Lawavou says Army was the better team on the day.
“It was pretty tough out there especially when this two teams face each other, it’s like a combat. I know they played better than we did and they were hungry for the win. Really proud of the boys, they gave everything out there but fell short.”
Both teams couldn’t quite get the basics right in the first five minutes with Army losing two of their own lineouts and two knock-ons from the Police.
Jone Manu kicked the winning penalty
Underdogs Army shocked the vocal Police crowd when fullback Inia Tawalo found a little room to move in front of the grandstand before kicking the ball and the bounce was in Army’s favour as winger Gabby Rokotuiviwa powered his way through before offloading to Aporosa Kenatale who ran in to score an unconverted try.
Aporosa Kenatale after scoring the first try for Army
Police replied with a penalty to Josese Kuricuva before a mistake by Army in their own tryline gifted Sireli Kaloucava with a converted try for a 10-5 lead.
However, the lead was canceled less than 10 minutes later when Suva flyhalf Suguturaga crashed over for another five-pointer following some lovely touches.
The favourites, Police, showed their dominance with some powerful pick and drives close to the Army tryline before Nadroga prop Timoci Sauvoli dived over for their second try, Kuricuva’s conversion made it 17-10.
While Army’s lineouts were not working, Police scrums were put under pressure by the young Delainabua front row under heavy conditions in the first half.
Army flanker and former Fiji 7s rep Vasikali Mudu won some crucial turnovers for the side.
Inia Tawalo with his Player of the Match award.
The lineouts didn’t improve for Army in the second spell while Police scrums had some stability when a few changes were made to the front row.
No points were scored in the second spell until the 64th minute when Kaiviti Silktails winger Ropate Tobe dived over in the corner for Army as they trailed 15-17.
The try was scored following some brilliant buildup up by the forwards with Mudu, Esikia Macu, Jiuta Takubu and Vesi Rarawa putting their bodies on the line before the ball was quickly recycled resulting in Tobe’s try.
Halfback Aporosa Kenatale was in the thick of things in the match and was replaced just a minute after his elder brother Nemia came off the bench for Police.