Planet Rugby

Scotland ease past Fiji

14th November 2009 16:11

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Johnnie Beattie try v Fiji

Try time: Johnnie Beattie gets Scotland's ball rolling

Scotland began their November Test series - and Andy Robinson's tenure - with a comfortable 23-10 win over Fiji on Saturday.

An early second-half try - tinged with controversy - by Graeme Morrison put the Scots in a winning position, but despite the promise shown in the first half there might be a mild concern that the team failed to kick on and close out the win their set-piece superiority deserved.

They might see it as progress - Scotland had lost six of the last nine coming into this after all - but there's still a lot to do. Having worked themselves in good fashion to a 16-0 lead, Scotland conceded a soft try and went thoroughly into their shells, briefly peeking out to score a second try and then retreating as though caught in the glare of headlights.

Some of the first half was top notch from the Scots. There were some clever well-worked moves coming off the back of an utterly dominant set piece, not least the opening try. But the number of balls turned over and the comparatively high penalty count negated the momentum.

In the second half, the backs just couldn't seem to find the right angles to run and ran out of ideas far too fast, while the forwards seemed unable to tidy up the rucks. The defence held firm well enough, but also allowed the Fijians to build up momentum too quickly. Fiji were unable to punish, but a better opponent would have cleaned up.

Fiji will also not be entirely satisfied. All too rarely did their fabled hands begin to work and put players into space, the balance the team likes to strike between sevens and the full game tilted too far towards the latter; not their forte. Runners took the ball into contact but the support was slow - understandable given only three days of chaotic preparation but they'll have to analyse and reflect that a little more adventure could have reaped rewards.

One move in particular which took them to 2m away from the Scots' line, was begging for a glory finish. Instead the forwards took the ball on around the fringes a couple of phases too many and had it wrapped up. That won the Fijians a scrum, frequently a good source of Scottish possession.

After finding their feet during the first ten minutes and taking the lead with a Phil Godman penalty, Scotland struck first with a super try. Johnnie Beattie popped the ball down to Chris Cusiter off a line-out and the scrum-half scampered through, offloading to Beattie who took two players over the line with him. Those two players included Josefa Domolailai who subsequently left the field with an oxygen mask after sustaining a horrible leg injury.

Further penalties followed from Godman, as well as one that struck the post, as Scotland exploited their scrumming superiority mercilessly, but Fiji built up a couple of good heads of steam as well, and scored a sucker-punch try just before half time. A series of rucks near the Scottish line built the momentum before the pass went out to an unopposed Vereneki Goneva for a simple finish, but questions will be asked as to why Simon Danielli chose that moment to cut inside on defence and leave Goneva free.

Half-time at 16-7 was comfortable enough and within five minutes of the second half, Graeme Morrison - benefitting from a monstrous knock-on right in the blind spot of the officials - crashed over under the posts, with Godman making it 23-7.

That should have been a catalyst, no matter how hard the Fijians fought. The blue scrum was shoving the white eight from loosehead to tight and the line-out was solid, while poor Josh Matavesi at full-back for Fiji was having a nervous game. All the requisite weak spots were there, but Scotland got sloppy, falling over rucks, resorting to illegal scrummaging to hammer home their advantage and looking a little lackadaisical in support and on the hoof.

Nicky Little banged over a penalty for Fiji on the hour to bring them to within two scores, but the Fijians got tired as the game petered out a little. Only Napolioni Nalaga looked capable of breaking a line and causing danger, but he was not given enough time running with the ball.

With six minutes to go, Fiji had worked their way to the line and an overlap - with Nalaga on the end of it - was begging. It could have been a very uncomfortable final few minutes for Scotland, but the Fiji forwards took the wrong option, winning only a scrum, from which they lost the ball. A win for Scotland, but lots to do.

Man of the match: Not a whole great deal of contenders, but while he was on the pitch, Chris Cusiter showed plenty of flashes and led the side ably in terms of both personnel and game play.

Moment of the match: Without a doubt Scotland's opening try, which should have inspired Scotland to bigger and better.

Villain of the match: Not a jot. No flying Fijian tackles - indeed the highest tackle of the day was by Alasdair Strokosch!

The scorers:

For Scotland:
Tries: Beattie, Morrison
Cons: Godman 2
Pens: Godman 3

For Fiji:
Try: Goneva
Con: Little
Pen: Little

Scotland: 15 Rory Lamont, 14 Sean Lamont, 13 Alex Grove, 12 Graeme Morrison, 11 Simon Danielli, 10 Phil Godman, 9 Chris Cusiter (c), 8 Johnnie Beattie, 7 John Barclay, 6 Alasdair Strokosch, 5 Alastair Kellock, 4 Nathan Hines, 3 Moray Low, 2 Ross Ford, 1 Allan Jacobsen.
Replacements: 16 Dougie Hall, 17 Kyle Traynor, 18 Jason White, 19 Richie Vernon, 20 Mike Blair, 21 Chris Paterson, 22 Nick De Luca.

Fiji: 15 Josh Matavesi, 14 Vereneki Goneva, 13 Gabirieli Lovobalavu, 12 Seremaia Bai (c), 11 Napolioni Nalaga, 10 Nicky Little, 9 Moses Rauluni, 8 Asaeli Boko, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Josefa Domolailai, 5 Ifereimi Rawaqa, 4 Wame Lewaravu, 3 Deacon Manu, 2 Vili Veikoso, 1 Alefoso Yalayalatabua.
Replacements: 16 Graham Dewes, 17 Sereli Ledua, 18 Leone Nakarawa, 19 Samu Bola, 20 Waisale Vatuvoka, 21 Jonetani Ratu, 22 Nasoni Roko.

Referee: Chris White (England)
Assistants: Carlo Damasco (Italy), Simon McDowell (Ireland)
TMO: Guillio De Santis (Italy)

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