Fiji used its trademark running flair and some bone-jarring defence to defeat Japan 27-22 Wednesday and move into the final of the Pacific Nations Cup rugby tournament.
Down two men, Fiji had to fight off a prolonged Japanese assault on its goalline in a tense final sequence.
The game turned midway through the first half when the Fijians, showing their offensive skills, reeled off three converted tries to turn a 9-3 deficit into a 24-9 lead.
But Japan made it close with a 13-point second half and Fiji was forced to spend a lot of time in its own end. Japan used the rolling maul to great effect during a late charge with Fiji lock Leone Nakarawa sin-binned with four minutes remaining for bringing the maul down near the goalline.
Fijian prop Campese Maafu was sent to the sideline for another indiscretion with no time remaining as Japan continued its onslaught.
The Japanese sent one runner after another at the Fijians but their one-dimensional attack could not break the defence down and they eventually gave up a penalty that ended the game.
Tevita Cavubati, Joshua Matavesi and Metuisela Talebula scored for the 10th-ranked Fijians (2-0-1). Matavesi, named man of the match, kicked two penalties and three conversions.
Akihito Yamada and Hendrik Tui scored tries for No. 13 Japan (1-2-0). Ayumu Goromaru booted four penalties.
Tonga defeated the U.S. 33-19 in the opening game of the tournament tripleheader at BMO Field.
The Fijians laid down the challenge before the game via the Cibi, their version of the Haka. The Japanese, in a line, watched impassively from centre field.
The game was played in 30-degree conditions, with the referee allowing time for water breaks.
Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline" played during one such break before a Japanese penalty, with the small crowd continuing to sing after the song was ended prematurely in deference to the kicker's concentration.
Earlier the anthems had been all but drowned out by performers at Edgefest 2 at nearby Echo Beach. The concert was an unwelcome soundtrack throughout the game.
Fiji spent the first 20 minutes on the backfoot and trailed 9-3 before the six-foot-seven, 265-pound Cavubati broke a tackle and ran 35 metres for a try to put the Pacific Islanders ahead 10-9.
An offload by Napolioni Nalaga after a run down the line set up Matavesi for a try in the 26th minute. Less than two minutes later, Talebula went down the other side for a try.
Japan laid siege on the Fijian goalline late in the half but, despite the beneficiary of several penalties, was unable to crack the Fiji defence and eventually yielded a penalty of its own.
The Fiji defenders finally broke early in the second half with Yamada darting over in the corner after a series of scrums near the goalline. That narrowed the deficit to 24-14.
Despite the breach, the Fiji defence continue to impress. Minutes after the try, Talebula sent Kotaro Matsushima into reverse with a driving tackle. But another Goromaru penalty cut the lead to 24-17.
A 61st-minute Matavesi penalty restored the Fiji lead to 10. Centre Lepani Botia then stopped a Japanese runner in his tracks.
Tui clawed his way over the line in the 69th minute to bring Japan to within a try at 27-22.
Fiji beat No. 12 Tonga 30-22 and tied No. 9 Samoa 30-30 previously. Japan defeated No. 18 Canada 20-6 and lost 23-18 to the 16th-ranked U.S.