In a closely contested clash that lived up to expectations, Police retained the 2023 Vodafone Ratu Sukuna Bowl Challenge following a 11-all draw against a strong Army side.
Army looked the more structured team in the first half, dominating a number of set-piece plays, winning the line-outs and scrums early in the match.
However, it was the Police side that took the lead in the 12th minute after fly-half Apisalome Waqatabu slotted in the penalty kick to give them a 3-0 lead.
Elusive Army winger Onisimo Nawalu’s try in the 27th minute put them ahead 5-3.
Seven minutes from half-time, Nawalu kicked a crucial penalty that extended Army’s lead by five points.
In a half, dominated by a number of scrappy plays, arguably due to the blistering Western heat that might have been a factor in the players performance, it was the Cohan Politini-coached Army side that went into the break, leading 8-3.
Early in the second half, Police piled pressure on the Army defence, resulting in a couple of good phases of play.
Police winger Jone Dukumoi took advantage of the situation as he dived in the corner for a try with the conversion levelling the scores to 8-8.
In a intense series of plays, Police started to look more composed and structured with their scrums holding the fort, resulting in a penalty slotted in by the ever reliable Jack Volavola.
However, Army scrapped through the broken plays, resulting in a penalty kick, kicked by Sanaila Daliga putting the scores back to 11-all.
Both sides had equal opportunities to take the lead late in the match, however, missed penalties, forced the scores to remain 11-all at full time.
Police captain James Brown lamented the side’s missed chances despite retaining the bowl.
“I think we left too many chances out there but we take the Bowl to Nasova but I feel we should have capitalised on those opportunities.” Army captain Peni Naruma acknowledged his players for their courageous performance despite the loss.
“Hats off to the boys because they played their hearts out and I also want to thank all our supporters, especially our families for rallying behind us for weeks.”