APIA, Samoa (AP) — Scrumhalf Henry Seniloli scored a hattrick of tries as Fiji beat Samoa 38-16 in the final match of the Pacific Nations Cup Saturday to propel Tonga into the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Center Jale Vatubua and replacement Api Ratuniyawara also scored tries as Fiji ran away from Samoa after trailing 16-14 at halftime. Flyhalf Ben Volavola kicked six goals from six attempts, converting all of Fiji's five tries and adding a penalty from 55 meters.
Fiji had sealed its own qualification for the 2019 World Cup in Japan ahead of Saturday's match. But Samoa needed at least a bonus point in defeat to prevent Tonga claiming the second automatic qualifying place from Oceania.
Fiji came into Saturday's match with 12 points in the combined 2016 and 2017 Pacific Nations Cup tournaments, which served as the Oceania World Cup qualifying series, and ended the series unbeaten.
Tonga had six points after upsetting Samoa two weeks ago and after taking a bonus point from last weekend's 14-10 loss to Fiji.
Samoa had five points, meaning a bonus point, a draw or a win would have taken them to the World Cup. Instead, they finished as the third-placed team in Oceania and will now have to play a repechage against a second tier European side, possibly Portugal, to claim their World Cup berth.
Fiji will play in Pool D at the World Cup with Australia, Wales, Georgia and an America's qualifier — either Canada or Uruguay. In winning Saturday, Fiji sent Tonga into the World Cup's Pool of Death beside England, France, Argentina and the United States.
If Samoa wins its repechage it might have an easier road in World Cup pool play, playing in Pool A with Ireland, Scotland, Japan and a European qualifier.
Fiji's win Saturday continued an outstanding run of form in June and July internationals in which they have beaten Scotland and Italy and stayed unbeaten in the Pacific Nations Cup.
They took an early lead Saturday with Seniloli's first try, created by a pass from Volavola which allowed an inside break from Akipusi Qera. Seniloli was rewarded in all three tries for his outstanding supporting play, staying on the shoulder of fullback Timoci Naguca to score his first.
Samoa equalized through captain David Lemi, playing his 50th test, when scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali'i caught Fiji napping with a quick tapped penalty.
Seniloli scored his second when winger Vereniki Goneva made a powerful break down the right flank.
Flyhalf Tusi Pisi missed his first two shots at goal but kicked three in a row to give Samoa a 16-14 lead at halftime.
Seniloli completed his hattrick immediately after halftime, finishing a move in which Nagusa was again prominent.
Vatubua ran off a pass from Nagusa to score in the 52nd minute and Ratuniyarawa crashed over from close range six minutes from fulltime.
Fiji 38 (Henry Seniloli 3, Jale Vatubua, Api Ratuniyawara tries; Ben Volavola 5 conversions, penalty), Samoa 16 (David Lemi try; Tusi Pisi conversion, 3 penalties), HT: 14-16.