Planet Rugby

Fiji do bare minimum

16th September 2007 14:49

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Kameli Ratuvou try

Essentials: Kameli Ratuvou scores Fiji's second try

Fiji's match against Wales ought now to decide the runner-up position in Pool B after the Fijians notched an unimpressive 29-16 win over Canada on Sunday.

The Fijians ran in three tries in the first 43 minutes, but then a litany of errors and a fair bit of indiscipline helped Canada back into a game, and the Canucks may well feel hard done-by after what looked a legitimate try was denied them by TMO Caig Joubert with 10 minutes to go, a try that may well have swung momentum their way.

With Canada dominating proceedings for the most part of the second half, Fiji were let off the hook when full-back Mike Pyke ignored the two-man overlap and went for glory himself.

At first, it looked like the Canadian was held up and dotted down after two movements. But referee Tony Spreadbury made the right decision to go upstairs and leave the final call to Joubert, who took a good few minutes to make his verdict.

After countless replays, it was clear that Pyke had not been held over or before the line and the try was successfully scored in one movement. The South African TMO thought otherwise though and the jeers from the Canada supporters in an empty Millennium Stadium could have matched that of a capacity crowd.

Canada did well to lift themselves up and continue to put pressure on the Islanders for the final ten minutes, that nearly led to them snatching the game with time up on the clock. But more about that later.

In a game dominated by two teams in different halves, Fiji would have been relieved to walk away with their bonus-point victory after their dominating opening 40 minute spell was negated by Canada after the break.

Fiji laid down the challenge before the game even kicked off with their traditional haka led by captain Mosese Rauluni.

Canada certainly started off well enough by securing the majority of possession by keeping the ball amongst their bigger forwards. But the backline had a tough time against the classier Fijians and failed to get the ball moving through the hands when it counted.

The boot of Pyke didn't help the Canucks' cause much either with endless up-and-unders kicked too far, and in the end just giving possession away to the Fijians in their own 22.

Fiji were their brilliant selves in loose play, with their locks acting like wings as they side-stepped past hapless defenders and the wings acted like locks as they bashed their way towards the Canada tryline.

The tight exchanges were more of a concern to the Fijians - as it was always going to be - with the Islanders struggling in the line-outs, losing five altogether off their own throw. The scrums also took a knock with Canada securing two feeds after pushing their opposition backwards.

Referee Spreadbury - at times far too whistle-happy - was forced to blow the game to a stand still after mistakes from both sides started to take their toll, with the small crowd begging for continuity.

However, the mistakes led to penalties and the penalties led to three-pointers as Canada wing James Pritchard opened the scoring with a well-taken shot at goal from the touchline.

Nicky Little got Fiji on the board with a monstrous 40-metre kick to level the scores in the seventh minute of the game after Canada flank Dave Biddle was adjudged off-side.

A wonderful try-saving tackle by skipper and scrum-half Morgan Williams on Fiji full-back Kameli Ratuvou inches from the line prevented the Islanders from taking the lead.

Pyke couldn't do the same for his team-mates though after lock Kele Leawere charged ten metres before trampling over the Canadian full-back for Fiji's first try of the afternoon by the posts. Little converted the simple conversion and Fiji held a deserved 10-3 lead.

Pritchard kept Canada in tune with a 40-metre penalty kick of his own that just managed to creep over.

Fiji replied after lock Ifereimi Rawaqa showed off some sevens skills and danced his way just short of the tryline. Ratuvou was on hand to take the quick ball from the ensuing ruck to crash over for his first try of the match. Little missed the tricky conversion, but the Islanders now had a handy 15-6 lead that they took with them into half-time.

Canada would have been kicking themselves after two missed try-scoring opportunities before the half-time hooter because of fumbling hands.

Fiji made them pay even more after dangerous right wing Vilimoni Delasau showed his incredible pace and strength when he went over for try number three for the Islanders two minutes into the second half.

Flanker Akapusi Qera made the initial burst, galloping a good 30 metres with the tryline in sight. Last week's man-of-the-match against Japan was too greedy though and went for glory with several team-mates in support. After another desperate tackle from Williams, the ball was recycled well by the Fijians and flung right to Delasau who made a tough try look easy.

Little converted to take the score to 22-6 and it looked like that was the ball game.

Instead, Fiji switched off their engine and Canada went into fifth gear as attack after attack took the Canucks into the Fijians 22, after yet another gliding run from Pritchard. The forwards got the charge on and mauled their way towards the Islanders' line. Nine phases later, fly-half Ryan Smith brushed off a soft tackle from Little and dived over under the sticks.

Pritchard added the extras and just like that, Canada were back in the game with the scoreboard reading 22-13 and 60 minutes gone on the clock.

Again, it was ill-discipline from Canada that halted any threatening attacks they had on their opponents, but Fiji didn't do themselves any favours by turning over far too much ball.

This would often lead to a counter-attack from the Canucks and in the 70th minute replacement hooker Aaron Carpenter made a burst into open space. The Canada backline was lined up with the biggest overlap the World Cup has seen. But Pyke went on his own and the rest was TMO history.

Canada turned their next attack into points thanks to another penalty from Pritchard - who only missed two kicks all afternoon. That score took the Canucks within a converted try to win the game and they came so close in doing so.

With time up on the clock, the Canada forwards pushed and shoved and pushed again. The crowd really got behind the Canucks and a match-winning try looked on the cards, but the Fijians held out long enough for Canada to make an error by spilling the ball.

If the Canadian supporters' hearts weighed anchor at that moment, they would have sunk completely after the ball was slapped to Ratuvou, who turned on the gas and raced the entire length of the field to score the clincher, and the bonus point try.

Man of the match: Fiji let themselves down in this category in the second half after completely losing their flow and control of the game. A solid performance from full-back Kameli Ratuvou kept Canada looking at the Saracens playmaker's back every time he got the ball. And lets not forget his brace of tries, the second winning the game for his team. Centre Seru Rabeni was impressive before he taken off in the second half, while skipper Mosese Rauluni was everywhere as usual. It's not often though that the losing team gets the nod, but James Pritchard did everything right and would be gutted that his flawless performance on attack, defence and with the boot could only lead to a loss.

Moment of the match: The dying seconds of the game must have had Canadians' hearts in their throats with an upset just inches away. That, together with Ratuvou's match-winning sprint towards the line take the accolade.

Villain of the match: You know who you are... the interesting call by Craig Joubert does it for us. Though our law discussions may clear a few things up later this week. Until now, all daggers point in the direction of the game's TMO.

The scorers:

For Canada:

Tries: Smith

Con: Pritchard

Pens: Pritchard 3

For Fiji:

Tries: Leawere, Ratuvou 2, Delasau

Cons: Little 3

Pen: Little

Canada: 15 Mike Pyke, 14 DTH van der Merwe, 13 Craig Culpan, 12 Dave Spicer, 11 James Pritchard, 10 Ryan Smith, 9 Morgan Williams (c), 8 Sean-Michael Stephen, 7 Dave Biddle, 6 Jamie Cudmore, 5 Mike James, 4 Mike Burak, 3 Jon Thiel, 2 Pat Riordan, 1 Rod Snow

Replacements: 16 Aaron Carpenter, 17 Dan Pletch, 18 Mike Pletch, 19 Luke Tait, 20 Colin Yukes, 21 Ed Fairhurst, 22 Ander Monro

Fiji: 15 Kameli Ratuvou, 14 Vilimoni Delasau, 13 Seru Rabeni, 12 Seremaia Bai, 11 Isoa Neivua, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Mosese Rauluni (c), 8 Sisa Koyamaibole, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Semisi Naevo, 5 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 4 Kele Leawere, 3 Jone Railomo, 2 Sunia Koto, 1 Graham Dewes

Replacements: 16 Vereniki Sauturaga, 17 Henry Qiodravu, 18 Netani Talei, 19 Jone Qovu, 20 Jone Daunivucu, 21 Maleli Kunavore, 22 Norman Ligairi

Referee: Tony Spreadbury

Touch judges: Christophe Berdos, Mark Lawrence

Television match official: Craig Joubert

Assessor: Steve Hilditch

By Dave Morris

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