In a game which saw momentum swing on multiple occasions, the Samoans’ dominant second quarter was ultimately the difference as they ran out 53-42 winners.
The match carried with it extra significance, after the previous meeting between the teams had ended 55-54 to the Samoans, with Fiji denied a last-gasp goal which was adjudged to have been scored too late.
Lydia Panapasa, who thought she had scored that late equaliser, started on the bench for Fiji, but her team-mates began with a real flourish, racing into a 3-0 lead.
Matila Vocea and Unaisi Rauluni kept up their intensity as the advantage went out to six at 9-3, while Adi Vakaoca Bolakoro and Kelera Nawai were also combining well at the other end of the court to limit Samoa’s opportunities.
The Samoans eventually found their rhythm though, and narrowed the gap by scoring five consecutive goals to bring the scoreline back to 11-10.
The they turned the ball over, but carelessly gave away possession again by taking a backline pass too early and allowing Vocea the opportunity to stretch the lead back out to two, at 13-11 at the end of the first quarter.
Clearly stung by losing the first quarter, Samoa quickly levelled proceedings in the second, through Toa Tanimo. After a scrappy phase of play, they really seized the initiative, quickly taking the score out to 18-14.
Panapasa made her entrance with five minutes of the quarter gone, as Fiji tried to address the dramatic swing in momentum. She failed to make an immediate impression though, missing her first attempt of the game.
Samoa, by contrast, had moved up a gear, and a flurry of interceptions allowed them to turnover play on a regular basis, extending their lead to eight, at 24-16.
The frustration was getting to the Fijians, which was reflected as Panapasa allowed the ball to slip through her grip in the circle, setting up another Samoan attack. With the clock having ticked right down, Sanita To’o missed the opportunity to crown a glorious second quarter for Samoa with another goal, however they went in at the break in a comfortable position, leading 25-16.
Samoa kept that momentum initially in the third quarter, stretching their lead out to ten, at 29-19. However a lengthy stoppage in play to allow Soli Ropati to receive treatment after a particularly heavy-looking fall disrupted the early rhythm in the quarter, and it would be Fiji who seized the opportunity to find some form of their own.
Much better, more flowing play from the Fijians at one stage saw a much more effective Panapasa score five consecutive goals, bringing the deficit right down to five at 36-31. It could have got even closer, but a wild pass from Alisi Galo allowed Samoa to regain both possession and some composure, closing the quarter with two quickfire goals to take their lead back out to 38-31.
Samoa again began a quarter well, taking the first two goals of the fourth. Fiji then came roaring back though, with Panapasa again proving their most effective option as they slowly ate into the deficit yet again.
After a collision between Rauluni and Gene Solia-Gibb, then Fijian goal attack limped away – clearly struggling – to set up Panapasa for another goal, as the gap came down to five at 42-37.
Errors then crept in again though, including a fumble in the circle by Panapasa when she was ideally positioned under the post on her own.
Samoa regained an element of control, and were able to see the game out 53-42 to ensure they took that 13th spot.
Samoa’s Brooke Williams said:
“We didn’t want to put ourselves in that situation again (winning the previous meeting by one) so we knew we had to come out hard and cherish the ball we had. It got a bit rough there towards the end, but we had the composure and I’m really proud of the girls.”