NUKU’ALOFA, Tonga, Jul 8 – Fiji qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Japan with a second-half rally to beat Tonga 14-10 on Saturday in a Pacific Nations Cup match in Nuku’alofa.
The score was locked at 3-3 at half-time after Fiji’s Ben Volavola and Tonga’s Sonatane Takula traded penalties.
Tonga opened up a 10-3 lead when Takula converted Siegfried Fisi’ihoi’s try early in the second spell before Fiji came back with a try to Leone Nakarawa and then hit the front with two late Volavola penalties.
The win ensured Fiji would take the Oceania 1 berth in Pool D at the World Cup alongside Australia, Wales, Georgia and the winner of the Americas 2 qualifying pool which will be either Canada or Uruguay.
With the combined results from the 2016 and 2017 Pacific Nations Cup tournaments used to determine the Oceania qualifiers, the 2016 titleholders Fiji booked their ticket to Japan with a game to spare.
Wins over Italy and Scotland in warm up Tests before the Tonga clash have boosted Fiji’s world ranking and they now lie 10th on 78.06 points, just 1.44 points behind Argentina.
The Oceania 2 slot to join England, France, Argentina and the United States in Pool C is wide open with Samoa and Tonga equal on five points.
It will likely be decided next weekend when Samoa, who lost to Tonga last week, play Fiji.