Peterborough Lions were toasting their Tongans as they ended the year on a high this afternoon (December 16).
They were away at Derby and ground out a 14-8 victory to remain second in the Midlands Premiership table.
And it was two of their Tongan players - player/coach Vili Ma’asi and number eight Sioki Vaha Taufu’i - who scored their tries.
“It was a Tongan special - they did us proud today,” said cheerful chairman Andy Moore. “It was a very hard physical game played on a very boggy pitch and we were delighted to come out of it with a win. There was very little back play and very little flair. It was a real war of attrition with some great defence by both sides.
“These are the sort of games though you have to win if you’re serious about going up a level.
“They raised their game, simply because it was us, and played out of their skins and they had a big and very loud crowd behind them.
“But we saw it through and I’m delighted to be heading into the new year in second place.”
Ma’asi, who was a World Cup captain for Tonga, was called into action due to Wes Cope’s shoulder injury and his experience came in handy in the brutal forward battle.
And he was in the right place at the right time to open the scoring after about 15 minutes with a try under the posts which Nico Defeo converted.
It remained at 7-0 until two minutes into the second half when Derby crossed for an uncoverted try to reduce the deficit to 7-5.
Then with 10 minutes to go a successful penalty kick saw Derby edge ahead 8-7 and the Lions had it all to do repeat their win from earlier in the season at Bretton.
And thanks to Vaha they did so as he charged over for the match-winning try with time running out. Defeo was again on target with the conversion.
“We must have played almost 10 minutes extra at the end when penalty after penalty seemed to go against us. And we were reduced to 14 men when Ben Howard got yellow-carded. So it was a nerve-wracking last few minutes,” added Moore.
Ma’asi’s teenage son Suva was also in the Lions starting line-up while on a break from university and did well in the centre.
League leaders Birmingham had their match at Bournville postponed so the Lions have narrowed the gap to seven points.
In Midlands Division One, Borough’s game at Kettering was postponed while Oundle won 42-15 at bottom club Market Rasen.