Moana Pasifika continue impressive rise in 2024

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Coach Tana Umaga said it was a tough game, but they were happy with the result. They worked hard for it, especially with the travel involved.

"I take my hat off to our staff and our players around the way they prepared themselves. That was something that came out of our last game and we changed that and that gave us the opportunity to stick it out as we did tonight."

Umaga said the try scored off the long lineout throw taken by first five-eighths Christian Leali'ifano and spectacularly completed by wing Kyren Taumoefolau had been planned by tactical coach Damian Karauna and their forwards coach, Tom Coventry.

"They were very happy with it. It's great to see when those things come off. All the detail that goes into it: the throw was great, Christian's offload in the tackle and then Kyren's speed.

"That's why he was on there, and the way he finished it's great for a young man on his first start to get something like that. He'll grow from this. He's got a long career in front of him."

The 55-metre penalty goal landed by replacement William Havili was not expected in the coaches' box, but kicking coach Stephen Jones said he definitely had it in him.

"It was a happy surprise, and then he nailed it, which gave us a little breathing space by extending the margin we were ahead.

"These guys are growing in confidence. Sione is doing a great job in leadership, and wins like this are immense for us and show how we can keep building.

"There's a lot of guys who are playing their first season of Super Rugby. Some of them, as Kyren did today started his first game and he's only 21. So getting success like that is great for confidence, not just for the group but for the individual players because, sometimes it's tough when you're on the other end."

Captain and flanker Sione Havili Talitui said it had been challenging in the hot conditions.

"In the first half my lungs were hurting and the other boys felt the same. But I'm happy and stoked. We had a good week leading up to today's game and I'm proud of the effort, not just from the boys but the coaches as well."

He backed Umaga's comments about the potential in the side and the confidence the win would give those players.

Umaga said the players stood up defensively. They were under pressure, but they had talked about how they had leaked points in the latter stages of the second half.

"In the last 20 minutes we talked about keeping 15 players on the field. That's hurt us in the last two weeks especially. So, I was immensely proud of that effort, we defended well."

Moana Pasifika expected the Force to try and run them around in the heat to fatigue them. Umaga said they had some luck with a few Force errors that could have cost them at least two tries, but that was what could happen in pressure moments.

"It was a big game for them as well and they stuck to their plan. But, we came back and played for each other, which is what we try to do every week. We back each other to the hilt, until we can't no more. It turned out well for us today."


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