Ten great moments in Pacific Island rugby

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1973: Tonga beats Australia


It ranks as one of the most significant results in the 97-year international rugby history of Tonga. Under the captaincy of No 8 Sione Mafi, Tonga tipped over the Wallabies 16-11 at Brisbane’s Ballymore to square the series. Included in the Tongan squad were Fatai Kefu and Malakai Alatini, respective fathers of future Wallabies and All Blacks stars Toutai Kefu and Pita Alatini. The Wallabies were not a great side, but the Tongan victory, on an otherwise mixed tour of Australia, was clearcut, scoring four tries to two.


1991: Samoa beats Wales in RWC


Playing as Western Samoa, Peter Schuster’s team shocked the world by edging Wales 16-13 at Cardiff Arms Park to complete the rebirth of Samoa as a rugby nation. The match was in the early pool stages of the Rugby World Cup and was founded on some bruising defence by Samoa, led by flanker Apollo Perelini, plus tries to To’o Vaega and Sila Vaifale. In truth, the Samoan side was a strong outfit, led by the charismatic Peter Fatialofa, while the Red Dragons were in decline as a rugby power.


Stephen Bachop causes trouble for the Welsh defence in 1991


1993: Samoa faces All Blacks at Eden Park


This historic first Test between the two nations saw the All Blacks win 35-13, scoring two tries to one, but the bare scoreline did not tell the full story of the competitiveness of the contest. The All Blacks were reliant on the unerring boot of Grant Fox, who kicked 25 points, and tries to Lee Stensness and Zinzan Brooke, while Anetelea Aiolupo scored Manu Samoa’s sole try. The atmosphere was terrific, as befitting the occasion, and post-match Fatialofa issued a challenge to the All Blacks to come and play in Apia.


2004: Pacific Islanders turn heads


The first (of two) tours by the Pacific Islanders was a success on the field, despite the rugby mix of Samoa, Tonga and Fiji dropping all three Test matches. That said, they played five games in 27 days, including the might of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa on consecutive weekends. Coached by John Boe, the Pacific Islanders included two future All Blacks in Sione Lauaki and Sitiveni Sivivatu. They lost 26-41 to the All Blacks in Albany, but not before scoring four tries and more than holding their own.



2005: Fiji wins RWC Sevens


The image of the great Waisale Serevi holding aloft the Melrose Cup is an enduring one. Fiji’s captain had come out of retirement to help his team to a second RWC Sevens crown with a thrilling 29-19 victory in the Cup final over New Zealand. Fiji was the king of the Hong Kong Sevens and Serevi was the king of Fiji sevens.


2007: Fiji beats Wales in RWC


Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire was the unlikely venue for one of Fiji’s finest 15s victory on the world stage. The Flying Fijians, thanks to four tries and the accurate boot of Nicky Little, headed Wales 38-34 in a remarkable final match of the pool stages to reach their second RWC quarter-final and knock the Red Dragons out of the playoffs.


Fiji perform the Cibi at the 2007 Rugby World Cup


2011: Samoa beats Australia


This Manu Samoa victory may have gone under the radar, as it was not a Rugby World Cup fixture, but it was still a massive result in the context of the Wallabies’ (then) realistic ambitions to be the best side in the world. Played in Sydney as an RWC warm-up match, the Manu triumphed 32-23, its first victory over the Wallabies, putting a dent in the aura of Robbie Deans’ side. Inspired by wing Alesana Tuilagi, Samoa heaped early pressure on the home team and scarcely let up.


2011: Tonga beats France in RWC


Tonga had already beaten France in Nuku’alofa back in 1999. But this was different, this was a Rugby World Cup match in Wellington, and France was seeking to qualify for the playoffs in second place behind the All Blacks. Playing their hearts out, the Ikale Tahi sored a try via Sukanaivalu Hufanga and won 19-14. Coach Isitolo Maka was proud of his charges, but knew that going for the bonus point, which would have sealed Tonga’s passage to the playoffs, and shut France out, was a bridge too far.


2015: All Blacks play in Samoa for first time


Some twenty-two years after Fatialofa’s first invitation, the All Blacks finally travelled to Apia to play Manu Samoa in its own backyard. It was a Wednesday fixture to fit in with a congested schedule and Richie McCaw’s men had to work hard in cloying humidity to take the win 25-16 at Apia Park. But the goodwill engendered was palpable. We await the return, one day, of the All Blacks to Samoa.



2021: Moana Pasifika and Fiji Drua in Super Rugby


Moana Pasifika and Fiji Drua had already made their marks on the field, the Drua in the Australian NRC and the former in a competitive outing against the Maori All Blacks late last year. In April 2021, they were both granted conditional licences to enter Super Rugby from 2022, a process which will hopefully see the long-held dream of many come to fruition.



Pasifika rugby will be celebrated in June and July when Manu Samoa, Tonga and Fiji come to New Zealand for a series of matches in the Steinlager Series.


Check out the schedule below and get your TICKETS HERE.


Saturday 3 July:


4.30PM: Māori All Blacks vs Manu Samoa at Mt Smart, Auckland

7.05PM: All Blacks vs Tonga at Mount Smart Stadium, Auckland


Saturday 10 July


7.05pm: All Blacks vs Fiji at Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin


Saturday 17 July:


7.05PM: All Blacks vs Fiji at FMG Stadium, Hamilton*


* This fixture will include the Rugby World Cup qualifying match between Tonga and Manu Samoa


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Campbell Burnes

Campbell Burnes has written on rugby since 2000 for a wide variety of publications, both in print and online, whilst also contributing to television and radio shows. His major gigs have seen him at Rugby News magazine (2005-12), in which he covered 50 Test matches, and the New Zealand Herald (2014-17). Burnes is one of the few in rugby media to have played international rugby, having appeared for Manu Samoa in 1995 and 2000 (seven games) as a No 10. He is now the editor of Rugby News magazine and co-editor of the Rugby Almanack.


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