Fijians struggle to fly


Fiji, like many others, got their World Cup off to a successful but stuttery start on Wednesday, beating Japan 35-31 in a pulsating clash in Toulouse.

After a dull first half, the second half thrilled as Fiji threatened to pull away, but Japan bounced back time and time again to set up a grandstand finish.

Nobody could have predicted the overwhelming finish that had the crowd standing on their seats as Japan nearly pulled off what would have been a memorable victory.

That’s not to say this match won’t be remembered – far from it in fact. Once you take out the diabolical first half, the spectators would have left knowing they got their full value for money.

The conditions demanded a running game of rugby, and with a side like Fiji taking centre stage at the Municipal Stadium, it was disappointing to see a first half wasted on so many errors from both sides.

With Japan taking most of the initiative on attack, it was their annoying inability to finish off their moves with the ball constantly finding the ground rather than the player.

Both sides had to rely their kickers to get any form of points on the board with Fiji’s Nicky Little having a tremendous day with the boot, while Japan’s Shotaro Onishi can also hold his head high.

With only nine points scored and 30 minutes gone on the clock, the crowd were getting restless. Where were these Flying Fijians everyone had come to see?

All credit to Japan though, who managed eight turnovers from Fiji ball and kept the Islanders under immense pressure that resulted in nine handling errors.

It was unfortunate then that the first try came against the run of play after a faulting Japan scrum ended with dynamic Fiji flanker Akapusi Qera pouncing on a loose ball and racing 60 metres to score under the posts.

Japan captain and number eight Takuro Miuchi and scrum-half Tomoki Yoshida the guilty parties on that occasion.

Little slotted the simplest of conversions and it looked as if Fiji would go into the break four points up with the score standing at 6-10.

However, Fijian flyer Vilimoni Delasau was caught with a rather high tackle on his opposite number and given a yellow card for his efforts. Onishi capitalised on the penalty and kicked a fine goal that took Japan into the break trailing by just one point.

Japan got the second half off to a good start, continuing where they left off the first 40 minutes with another penalty goal to Onishi who kept his 100 per cent kicking record in tact.

The Japan flags in the stadium were waved with less enthusiasm after Qera again was on hand to score his second try of the afternoon thanks to a fine break by captain and halfback Mosese Rauluni.

The Fiji skipper showed great skills to snap up the ball from a wheeled scrum from a Japan put in and made several hard yards before throwing a superb pass to Isoa Neivua. The left wing drew his man well and passed a simple inside ball to a supporting Qera who went over again untouched for the converted try. 12-17 to the Fijians.

Any thoughts of Fiji taking control of this match was ruled out almost immediately when the Cherry Blossoms showed some brilliant character to bounce back and touch down with a fine try of their own.

Attacking just outside the Fiji’s 22, lock Luke Thompson found himself with the ball at inside centre and obviously took it upon himself to play like one when he threw a lovely dummy to race unopposed for a converted try under the sticks.

That took Japan back into the lead with the scoreline reading 19-17.

The see-saw battle continued when Little kicked another penalty to re-capture the lead at 19-20 in the 54th minute.

Another break down the right hand touchline by Rauluni caught the Japanese napping and were only wide awake after robust centre Seru Rabeni stretched out to score Fiji’s third try. The conversion was missed, but

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