Forceful Fiji Too Strong for Royal Navy
RN Senior XV
RN Senior XV v Fiji
Fiji produced an opening game of pace and power that has made Pool1 stand up and take notice and marked them as serious contenders in IDRC2015. Their victory was based upon a solid set piece, fierce commitment at the breakdown and the variety they brought to their attack. The Royal Navy will rue some of their unforced errors but were beaten by a better side.
Fiji had earned themselves the attacking bonus point by half time and but for two short periods they controlled the game. Their scrum half, Seru Cavuilati was at the centre of all their good play. If the ball was quick so was his decision making as he rarely let the defence settle before once more moving the point of attack. When the Royal Navy did manage to slow or halt Fiji’s progress then his play was measured helped by having a number of strong ball carriers who could really challenge the Royal Navy’s first up tacklers. If that was not enough to contend with in their back three they had two players who could produce 50m clearance kicks with ease.
With just over a quarter of the game gone Fiji found themselves up 18-0 through well taken tries by their industrious openside, Ameniasi Nava and the powerful Number 8, Jolame Bera along with two penalties, the first from fullback Tikilaci Vuibau and the second from blood replacement Jaoji Dakuvula. Vuibau had also converted the second try.
With the game threatening to get away from the Royal Navy they managed to get a toe hold in the match through some purposeful driving play and through reducing their error count. With possession came pressure and from the pressure Fiji began to concede penalties. From one thirty metres out Jon Humphrey had the option to go for goal but captain, Ben Priddey, opted for the kick to the corner. His forwards rewarded the decision with some quality lineout ball and a maul that they drove over the Fiji line. Under a pile of bodies it was Number 8, Dave Fairbrother who stood up last; clutching the ball and claiming the try. Jon Humphrey was successful with a tricky conversion and within two minutes was back in front of the posts kicking a penalty thanks to a searing break by Greg Welling after the kick off.
The Royal Navy needed to get a third score, if only to add some doubt in to Fiji’s play. However a missed tackle put the defence under pressure and that led to a needless penalty. Fiji were equally proficient at their lineout and were soon running hard at a fragmenting Navy defence. Adv was called for side entry at the breakdown but Fiji played on and were rewarded with a penalty 5m out when the Royal Navy went off their feet. It was quickly taken by hooker Iserli Ledua as he dived over from 5m. The conversion made it 25-10 and it wasn’t long before it was 32-10 as Nava crossed for his second, which was also converted. A brief rally by the Royal Navy raised the faintest of hopes but Fiji were firm in defence and the referee blew for half time.
A dropped ball was the worst possible start to the second half when the Navy needed to get some field position. Fiji dominated the resultant scrum to win the penalty which was quickly taken. Dave Fairbrother made the professional foul as Cavuilati headed to the goal line and the Royal Navy were reduced to 14 men. The ten minutes became twenty minutes at fourteen men for just as Dave Fairbrother was due to come back on, Seta Raumakita was reckless with a tackle and was also despatched by the Australian referee James Hagan.
During this short handed period both sides exchanged scores. For Fiji it was regulation overlap on the right after their scrum had again driven forward and Sevuloni Lutu crossed in the corner. For the Royal Navy Ben Priddey managed to get up a head of steam and at last the ball was recycled reasonable quickly. Johnny Stephen found flyhalf Nathan Huntley who put a perfectly weighted cross field kick in to the path of Ben Chambers on the left wing. He tapped it down in field to the supporting Jon Humphrey who went under the posts for the try which he also then converted. 37-17.
Could the Navy find a way back into the game? Unfortunately no. The effort of playing short handed and having to make a lot of tackles was beginning to show and it was Fiji who finished the stronger. Another brace of tries were added through replacements Vilitiati Wiatakaca and Lepani Kurumudu. With both being converted Fiji broke through the 50 point barrier to record a 51-17 victory.
That Fiji were deserving winners was never in doubt but the Royal Navy did make the job easier for them. Something they will no doubt review before focussing on the challenge of New Zealand on Monday. Missed kicks to touch and tackles that were too high added to their pressure and allowed Fiji to dictate much of the game.
Earlier the coaching staff were on hand to watch New Zealand despatch, through nine tries, a willing but under powered Japan team 55-5. With the likelihood that New Zealand’s game will improve it is important that the Royal Navy spend a little time going through the Fiji game before quickly moving their focus to the rest of what is now a knock-out tournament.
With only 3 days between games the medical and conditioning staff will be working hard over the weekend as bodies recover from what was a physically punishing match. However the Royal Navy team now knows what is required and will have to be willing to put their bodies through another equally physical examination on Monday whilst reducing the number of unforced errors to ensure they get the win and put their IDRC2015 challenge back on the right tracks.
Royal Navy: Kyle Mason, Ben Priddet (C), John Court, John Lamsin, Edd Pascoe, Seta Raumakita, Jarrad Hayler, Dave Fairbrother, Johnny Stephen, Nathan Huntley, Ben Chambers, Matt Tichias, Silvenusi Buinimasi, Greg Welling, Jon Humphrey
Replacements: Harry Collins for Ben Priddey, Tom Blakburn for John Court, Ian Cooper, Joe Burton for Jarrad Hayler, Ben Fox for Seta Raumakita, Richard Cadywould for Johnny Stephen, Darren Bamford for Matt Tichias, Tom Davies for Ben Chambers
Vesi Rarawa, Isireli Ledua, Penijamini Makutu, Daventia Koroitakali, Savenaca Tabakanacagi, Manoa Tamaya, Jolame Bera (C), Seru Cavuilati, Josefa Basudra, Sanaila Vitau, Vilive Aria, Josaia Lotawia, Sevuloni Lutu, Tikilaci Vuibau
Replacements: Aseri Buli, Bianuvie Dretiverata, Kuvati Tawake, Vilitiati Wiatakaca, Joeli Lesavua, Nemani Koroitamani, Lepani Kurumudu, Jaoji Dakuvula
Referee: James Hagan (Australia) Ass Referees Matt Duncan (ARURS) Bryan Ray (ARURS)
Japan v Fiji US Portsmouth, Mon 12 Oct KO 15:00
Royal Navy v New Zealand US Portsmouth, Mon 12 Oct KO 19:00
Article by G Ashton Jones
Images by Alligin Photography / © G Ashton Jones