Fiji vs Wales Review

Image Credit: Dan Mullan - Getty

Another match, same old story. Discipline, officiating, should have won, could have won. I know, It’s frustrating for all of us.

We saw our boys really push and give it their all. Being forced to play the majority of the game with either 13 or 14 men requires a huge effort to stay in the match.

Where it went wrong

Where it always does. But that’s not to say the Flying Fijians haven’t improved. Yes our glaring problem areas are still our problem areas but like I mentioned in the match preview, high intensity fitness.

The Welsh just had that extra bit in the tank, a little more energy in their legs and a little less fatigue in their decisions.

The lineouts have really fallen away in our first two matches, and they’re not even being stolen, they’re just being over thrown. 4 lineouts lost according to ESPN stats, with each one letting the opposition off the hook. Late in the first half we turned over two lineouts inside the Welsh 22, minutes later they were over for a try. And was I the only one who had a problem with the Welsh hooker’s pre throw-in routine?

According to the laws of the game the thrower “must not baulk the throw” as we seen Sam Matavesi penalised in last weeks test. But that’s besides the point, a lot of our mistakes were not forced by the Dragons defense, they were self inflicted.

Discipline must improve

As much as we love The Sledgehammer, he got that one wrong. It was a great first up tackle but the follow through was always going to be red whether we like it or not. The ref thought yellow but the forensic TMO thought otherwise. Eroni Sau was a forlorn figure on the sidelines and I really hope it doesn’t affect him too much. Such a shame for Fiji because up until that point he was looking very sharp on both sides of the ball.

Discipline continues to be our Achilles heel. While both teams conceded 13 penalties, 3 of our penalties resulted in 3 players leaving the field. I don’t want to make excuses for the players but I believe this is partly a roll-on effect from the big match fitness that I keep talking about. Less fatigue equals much better decision making.

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Digging deep

From the moment Sau left the field, just about every Fijian sighed in unity, “Here we go again”. That familiar feeling that the other team were not our only opposition.

But this is when their true spirit showed. Despite our lead it seemed as though our backs were up against a wall and you know what they say about backing a Fijian into a corner, he comes out fighting.

Holding the Welsh out barrage after barrage on our line. Another man down, Albert Tuisue yellow carded, Wales finally over for their second try.

Of the 6 tries Wales scored, 1 was while we were down to 14, 3 while we were reduced to a rugby league team with a final try past the 80 minute mark to make it look a lot worse then the scoreline indicated.

Brighter side

Overall there were some very good performances.

Ben Volavola came with his kicking boots and made sound decisions. He didn’t force the pass and recognised when to hold it back, when to pull the trigger on the cut-out passes.

Credit – Fiji Rugby

Waisea Nayacalevu played the best defensive game I have seen from a centre since Jale Vatubua’s brick wall effort against the French in 2018. The skipper put in countless big hits and cover tackles and was there on both occasions to get the try for Fiji. And just quietly the veteran still has a some serious pace.

Viliame Mata added another dimension to the attack. A more open game and we see the best from the Tailevu Tractor. Carrying hard at the line, running great lines like he did the first try and just being an extra weapon on attack. Clearly the best back rower on the field.

Sam Matavesi just keeps going from strength to strength. He has been a clear standout in both games. By my count he had at least 3 turnovers in the first half alone. ESPN and WWOS stats don’t say as much but the tenacious hooker was a pilfering machine on the night. Matavesi is really putting his hand up as a leader of the side and while he may not have the “C” next to his name he definitely leads by example out there. I thought he was the best on field.
I can confirm that Opta Stats (a much more reputable source) has Sam Matavesi with 6 turnovers. 3 in each half.

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Setariki Tuicuvu got everyone excited last weekend when he showed us a whole other side to his attacking game. He backed that up with more of the same. Not as many opportunities this week but the most pleasing aspect of his performance was he didn’t offload it when it wasn’t on. He chose his moments well and his set up for the second try was an absolute beauty.

Apisai Naqaliva got his first taste of test rugby when he came on in the 57th minute. In his short time on the field I saw enough to want him back in the side and see what he can do as a starter. He is another powerful runner who could really give Fiji that extra punch in attack and defensively dominates in tackles.

Josua Tuisova was heavily marked and kept quiet for most the match. Wales cut off Volavola’s time and forced him back in field which limited both Tuisova and Vilimoni Botitu’s chances.

Building nicely

All things considered the boys tried their guts out and pushed Wales right to the end. If we put this game into perspective then we see how far we have come. There’s still a lot of room for improvement but the only way is up. When we’re missing front liners like Semi Radradra, Levani Botia, Leone Nakarawa and Johnny Dyer yet still look the goods against class opposition, that’s when we know our day is coming.

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Emotions riding high

I’m as much to blame as anyone for getting a little too emotional in my social media post following the match but nothing brings out my passion like the national Fijian teams. Yes the refs could have been better but the same can be said for most Rugby matches. We also need to be honest and admit that the boys created enough chances to win the game and a more disciplined performance could have resulted in another famous victory.

Join in the conversation

Let me know what you though of the team’s performance and what kind of line-up you would like to see in the Georgia game. Join in the conversation and drop a comment below.

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