WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Japan, Samoa and the United States have made winning starts to the Pacific Nations Cup tournament which forms a major part of their preparations for the impending Rugby World Cup.
World Cup hosts Japan beat ninth-ranked Fiji 34-21, the United States beat Canada 47-19 and Samoa edged Tonga 25-17 in Samoa on a pitch turned into a quagmire by heavy rain.
Tonga players have complained on social media that conditions at Apia Park were unsuitable for a test match. Television pictures showed a ground churned into a morass with players often paddling through ankle-deep mud.
Tonga’s England-based center Cooper Vuna has called on World Rugby to explain its decision to allow the match to proceed.
On Twitter Vuna said “please World Rugby enlighten us all on what processes you took to allow this game to go ahead. My question is, if a Tier One team was to play that day, would the game still go on?”
Vuna was a try-scorer in the match, giving Tonga an early 5-0 lead and a further try to prop Ben Tamiefuna put them ahead 10-3 at halftime.
Hooker Sefo Sakalia scored Tonga’s third try but was sin-binned in the second half, as was teammate Sione Valianu, and Samoa was able to rally with tries to Belgium Tuatagaloa and Afaesetiti Amosa.
In Glendale Colorado, the 15th-ranked United States built a 20-0 lead by halftime and held out Canada’s 19-point second-half rally.
Hooker Dylan Fawsitt and captain Blaine Scully scored first half tries for the United States. Canada captain Tyler Ardron scored his team’s first try shortly after halftime but couldn’t prevent the United States extending its winning streak against Canada to 11 matches dating back to 2013.
Japan took a big step forward in its Rugby World Cup preparation with a five-try 34-21 win over defending champion Fij. Kenki Fukuoka, Kotaro Matsushima, Timothy Lafaele and Kazuki Himeno scored tries to give Japan a comfortable 29-14 lead at halftime.
Matsushima added another after the break as Japan secured its first win over Fiji since 2011. Sam Matavesi scored two tries for the visitors while Levani Botia added the other.