The New Zealand Heartland XV survived a late comeback to beat Nadi 26-19 in Fiji on Tuesday night.
The Heartland XV were in control for most of the game, building a 12-0 halftime lead to a 26-5 advantage, with around 15 minutes to go.
With the Kiwis tiring in the heat Nadi took full advantage to close the gap with two late tries. Wing Willie Paia’aua put in another excellent performance for the NZ Heartland XV
Heartland coach Barry Matthews said despite the score line he felt his team was never in danger.”As they do the Fijian boys got a sniff at the end and scored two good tries.”
NZ Heartland captain Kieran Coll got on the try scoring sheet again
Matthews said their performance was not as good as the win over NZ Marist on Saturday. “We were okay but will need to step up again against Nadroga on Saturday.
“Nadroga are the top side here and won their championship so will be very tough.” Zayn Tipping scored one of the Heartland XVs four tries
Matthews said the heat had a real effect on them in the last quarter of an hour.
“We just tired, when really at 26-5 we should have put them away.
Matthews did empty the bench to try and stave off the fatigue.
“Also we fell off a few tackles that we should have made at the end but the Fijians were big, strong boys.”
For the New Zealand side, centre James Hemara (King Country) put in another excellent performance as did lock JJ Manning (West Coast).
Open side Eddie Cranston (Wairarapa Bush) also had a strong game.
Matthews said wing Willie Paia’aua (Horowhenua Kapiti) also played very well.
“Willie has some great skills and pace and used them well again.”
Captain Kieran Coll (South Canterbury) also impressed before having to go off with an injury 10 minutes into the second half.
Coll did however get on the try scoring list along with Paia’aua, Cranston and starting halfback Zayn Tipping (King Country), while first five James Lash (Buller) landed three conversions.
Matthews said he was hoping to have a fully fit squad for Saturday after a couple of players were down with stomach complaints.
“Timaru Tafa was supposed to start at prop but he never got out of bed and a couple of others aren’t flash, we just had the bare numbers.”
With a fully fit squad Matthews said he was looking for improvements in the side’s performance.
“The option taking needs to improve on Saturday.
“We also need to earn the right to go wide, not just go side to side.”
Off the field Matthews said the team were enjoying Fiji and the hospitality.
NZ Heartland XV 26 (Kieran Coll, Eddie Cranston, Willie Paia’aua, Zayn Tipping try, James Lash 3 con)
Nadi 19 (3 tries, 2 con)