En­forcer Strikes

Bo­tia scores twice as Fly­ing Fi­jians end tour with a win

Fiji Sun - - Sport - LEONE CABENATABUA Feed­back: leonec@fi­jisun.com.fj

En­forcer Le­vani Bo­tia scored two tries as the Voda­fone Fly­ing Fi­jians beat Ja­pan 3825 to end their Euro­pean tour with a win and kept their Asian ri­vals out of the world top 10. Fly­ing Fi­jians skip­per Aka­pusi Qera said he had only hoped if all their top play­ers in Europe were re­leased and for them to have a longer prepa­ra­tion pe­riod. “The boys put in a lot of hard work as we pre­pared for this match,” he said. Fi­jian head coach John McKee said the Pa­cific na­tion’s Olympic sevens ti­tle had given them new con­fi­dence in their abil­ity as they head to­ward the 2019 World Cup cam­paign. McKee told Sports24, that he was “very happy” with the dom­i­neer­ing dis­play against a Ja­panese side who could have taken 10th place in the world from Fiji had they won in the western French town of Vannes. But cen­tre Al­bert Vulivuli touched down the first of the Fi­jian’s five tries af­ter 15 min­utes and they were never un­der threat even though Pe­celi Yato was sent off in the first half for a dan­ger­ous tackle.

Fiji ran in tries from winger Me­tuisela Tale­bula and Bo­tia with Ne­mani, kick­ing in all the conversions as they took a 21-6 lead at half-time.

In the sec­ond half Bo­tia scored his sec­ond with Nadolo run­ning in the fifth try. He kicked in the two conversions and a last-minute penalty.

De­spite see­ing his side lose 58-15 to Eng­land in their ear­lier game, McKee said 2016 has been a turn­ing point for Fi­jian rugby be­cause of their tri­umph at the Rio Olympics.

“It gives our play­ers a new con­fi­dence, a be­lief that they can take on the best in the world and show their class. “That Olympic cam­paign was ex­cel­lent,” said the New Zealan­der. While McKee has spo­ken of the need to set up a Su­per cham­pi­onship club in Fiji, McKee in­sisted the na­tional team did not need a lot of re­sources to thrive. “At the end of the day it is work­ing hard to­gether, work­ing as a team. With Fi­jians, when they bring all that to­gether they can beat any­one.

“We still have a lot of work to do in front of us. I be­lieve we have se­ri­ously tal­ented play­ers in the 15s game. If we keep pro­gress­ing and keep work­ing hard, by 2019 we can chal­lenge to get out of our pool and if we get out of our pool any­thing can hap­pen.”

JOSEPH TELLS OF MIS­SION Two sec­ond half Koto Mat­sushima tries gave some re­spectabil­ity to Ja­pan’s score, but coach Jamie Joseph was not happy.

“We were very flat in the first half and gave Fiji the first cou­ple of tries by our mis­takes so that was dis­ap­point­ing,” he said.

“I felt that whilst play­ers’ at­ti­tudes were re­ally good, the Fiji at­ti­tudes were bet­ter. “What that looked like to me was that they po­si­tioned quicker, they wanted the ball more, they were hun­grier for those 50-50 op­por­tu­ni­ties. In the sec­ond half ev­ery time we tried to get our game go­ing, we made a mis­take or gave a penalty away. But we showed a bit of char­ac­ter.” Joseph said he would go “back to the draw­ing board” as he pur­sues his mis­sion to cre­ate a team that can com­pete when the World Cup ar­rives in Ja­pan in 2019. “We lost the game to­day but we have to learn the les­son of how we can be bet­ter. We have come a long way in four weeks. Half the team are new and never played for Ja­pan. It was a hard start with one week’s prepa­ra­tion, we played Ar­gentina (and were beaten 54-20), got a win against Georgia, could have won against Wales and we were clearly beaten to­day.” De­spite the re­sults Joseph said it had been a “great tour” that had “un­earthed some new tal­ent.” “Un­for­tu­nately we have got to wait six months be­fore we can play again.” Joseph said that when Ja­pan are well pre­pared they can com­pete in the way they did against Wales when they lost just 33-30.

“I learned that we still have a long way to go in terms of un­der­stand­ing what it takes to pre­pare well week in and week out and get that same level of per­for­mance con­sis­tently. In Ja­pan, play­ers are not used to this level of in­ten­sity and we need to po­ten­tially use a few more play­ers.”

Le­vani Bo­tia (left) comes in to sup­port as Leone Nakarawa makes a tackle against Ja­pan in Vannes, France yes­ter­day. Voda­fone Fly­ing Fi­jian lock Nemia So­qeta wins a li­ne­out ball.

Voda­fone Fly­ing Fi­jian winger Ne­mani Nadolo takes a high ball.

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