VANCOUVER (AFP) - Fiji fired a warning shot to Rugby World Cup hosts England on Monday, with a sparkling attacking performance to down tough-tackling Samoa 39-29 and win the Pacific Nations Cup.
Just under seven weeks from their opening World Cup fixture against England at Twickenham on Sept 18, the Fijians served a timely reminder of their potency to outscore Samoa by five tries to three.
A see-saw battle at the Swangard Stadium saw Fiji race away to an early 17-3 lead before the physical Samoans looked to have reeled them early in the second half with two quick tries to take a 21-17 lead.
But just as Samoa appeared to have taken control of the contest, Fiji came roaring back with three quick tries that saw them pull clear and hang on for a deserved win.
Fiji had gotten off to a dream start with early tries from athletic lock Leone Nakarawa and scrum-half Niko Matawalu.
Nakarawa opened the scoring for the Fijians after just 90 seconds, bursting clear to score under the posts for a try converted by Joshua Matavesi.
Matavesi slotted a penalty to put Fiji 10-0 up before Samoa got on the scoresheet through Michael Stanley's first three-pointer of the contest, a towering long-range effort from wide on the left.
But Fiji had Samoa scrambling again when they snaffled a line-out and captain Akapusi Qera peeled off before feeding Matawalu, who sprinted over close to the posts, Matavesi adding a simple conversion to make it 17-3.
Samoa fought back with two more Stanley penalties to make it 17-9 at half-time. Soon after the restart they looked to have taken a grip, when flanker Jack Lam crashed over from close range before a wonderful individual run from right wing Fa'atoina Autagavaia made it 21-17.
Yet Fiji's response was immediate, Nakarawa grabbing his second of the match to put his team 22-21 ahead after a clever cross-field kick by Ben Volavola caused havoc in the Samoan defence.
Samoa, though, remained calm and Stanley kicked them back in front with another cool penalty to make it 24-22.
But just as Fiji looked to be struggling against the power of the Samoan set piece, the game turned on its head around the one-hour mark as the flamboyant islanders turned on the style to score two tries out of nothing.
The first came through full-back Kini Murimurivalu, going over in the corner for a try converted by Volavola to put Fiji 29-24 ahead.
The Fijians saved their best for last, however, and opened up a 12-point lead with a magnificent try from distance.
Replacement Peceli Yato conjured a scintillating break in midfield before feeding the omnipresent Matavalu who went racing in under the posts.
The scrum-half then unselfishly popped a pass to skipper Qera following up, and with Volavola adding the conversion Fiji were suddenly 36-24 ahead.
Samoa ensured a nervous finish with Autagavaia scoring his second try of the match to reduce Fiji's lead to 36-29, but with the conversion missed, the Samoans were always struggling to complete another comeback.
Four minutes from time, Samoa were penalised at a ruck and Volavola stepped up to kick the three points and Fiji were home.
In other games Monday, Tonga took the bronze medal with a 31-20 win over Japan.
The United States, meanwhile, ensured a winless tournament for hosts Canada, winning a ferocious duel with their fierce regional rivals 15-13 after a last-minute drop goal from A.J. MacGinty.