We enter a new year, the first weekend of 2023. Filipo Nakosi and Sireli Maqala both scored tries in the Top 14 last week which technically in the Southern Hemisphere at least was 2023. Given it was the 31st of December in France, they were the official last tryscorers in 2022 for Fijians across all competitions.
That being said let’s move onto this weekends selections and game notes.
Pro D2 Round 16 Jan 5-6
Biarritz – Henry Speight 14 | Montauban – Semesa Rokoduguni 14
The first time that Speight and Rokoduguni have crossed paths at least at Pro D2 level. Speight has been in good form all season scoring 5 tries in his 13 matches. Rokoduguni is also having a solid start to his Pro D2 career playing in his 14th match. No Johnny Dyer for Biarritz. Epeli Momo out for Montauban while Josua Vici still sidelined with injury.
Biarritz won the match 20-17.
Agen – Kolinio Ramoka 12, Tevita Railevu 14 vs Rouen
Benito Masilevu rested for Rouen.
Ramoka scored the first try of the match in the 21st minute while Railevu crossed the whitewash in the 47th minute. Ramoka is our official first tryscorer for the 2023 calendar year. He chased through a grubber kick to score next to the posts. He looked to have scored a 2nd but was called back for an obstruction in the lead up.
Agen won the match 30-13.
Aurillac – Christa Powell 12 | Stade Montois – Veresa Ramototabua 8, Kaminieli Rasaku 11, Nacani Wakaya 13
Ramototabua starts at number 8 in his 3rd match for the club.
Mont de Marsan trailed 0-16 before they fought back. Rasaku scored their second try of the match when he finished a backline move. His 4th try for the club in his 6th match. Mont de Marsan winning via a 78th minute penalty 20-19.
Colomiers – Peni Rokoduguni 22 @ Carcassonne
Colomiers won the match 21-9.
Soyaux – Ledua Mau 13 | Nevers – Alivereti Loaloa 13
Soyaux’ struggles continues with a 20-26 loss. Loaloa was yellow carded in the 69th minute for Nevers.
Provence – Luke Tagi 3, Eroni Sau 11, Adrian Sanday 13 vs Grenoble
Sau plays his 5th match of the season and his 1st since late November. The ‘Sledgehammer’ has been riddled with injury in the past 6 months but gets his opportunity in a tough match against Grenoble. Sanday returns to the starting side for Provence while Pio Muarua rested for Grenoble.
Tagi powered over in the 40th minute for Provence. He took a hit up a few metres out from goal and still managed to power over. It was his 3rd try of the season.
Top 14 Round 15 Jan 7-8
Bayonne – Eneriko Buliruarua 12, Sireli Maqala 13 @ Bordeaux
A tough match between 5th and 6th placed teams. Maqala coming off a tryscoring effort last week will be joined by Buliruarua in the centres. This will be his 8th match this season.
Bayonne trailed for most the match and finished strong scoring 2 tries in the final 10 minutes but it wasn’t enough as Bordeaux came away with the win 23-15.
Brive – Setariki Tuicuvu 13 vs Toulon
Jiuta Wainiqolo rested for Toulon while Flying Fijians skipper Waisea Nayacalevu still out with injury. For Brive Tevita Ratuva is out due to suspension, Setareki Bituniyata out injured since round 1 is back in training with his return not too far away.
Pau – Jale Vatubua 12 | Lyon – Temo Mayanavanua 5, Josua Tuisova 14, Tavite Veredamu 21
Tuisova plays his first match since Round 10 in early October last year. Vatubua plays his 11th match this season for Pau while Lekima Tagitagivalu is rested. Aminiasi Tuimaba is yet to play this season is still out with injury.
Tuisova scored the first try of the match in the 28th minute. Veredamu also got across the line for his 1st try of the season in the 75th minute sealing the win. Lyon winners 21-12.
Veredamu was named in the Midi Olympique team of the week for his performance.
Castres – Leone Nakarawa 4, Josaia Raisuqe 7, Filipo Nakosi 11, Vilimoni Botitu 12 @ Stade Francais
Raisuqe starts for the 3rd time this season. If you cast your minds back to January 2022, the newly converted flanker was one of Castres best that month. Nakosi is coming off a solid performance last week where he scored an excellent solo try. No Adrea Cocagi this week.
For Stade Francais Sefa Naivalu out with injury since round 8.
More than halfway through the season last years Grand Finalists Castres sit in 10th position. They let another game slip against Stade Francais who admittedly are on the rise sitting in 2nd position and flexed their muscle in this one winning 26-7.
Nakosi was yellow carded 3 minutes into the match. Botitu was one of the shining lights for Castres in an otherwise underwhelming performance.
Clermont – Alivereti Raka 11 | Perpignan – Taniela Ramasibana 18
Ramasibana plays his 3rd match this season and 1st since round 3. Raka leads all Fijians in active competitions for tries scored coming into the new year with 7 (6 Top 14, 1 Champions Cup).
Perpignan started strong scoring the first try but Clermont eventually came away with the victory 31-20. Raka scored his 7th try of the season. A scrum move 10 metres out saw the Naitasiri native power over a couple of defenders to score under the posts.Embed from Getty Images
La Rochelle – Levani Botia 6 vs Toulouse
Botia starts at flanker for the first time (club level) since Round 17 of the 2019/2020 Top 14 season. He started 2 matches for the Flying Fijians at flanker in the Autumn Nations Series.
Botia was phenomenal in defence. Described by Rugbyrama as “royal against Stade Toulouse as a flanker. A replacement in the third line which allowed the Fijian to be capital in defense…”
La Rochelle won the match 30-7.
Premiership Round 15 Jan 6-8
Saracens – Eroni Mawi 17 @ Gloucester
No Albert Tuisue for the Cherry and Whites due to suspension. Saracens sit at the top of the table while Gloucester are in 4th.
Owen Farrell kicked an 80th minute field goal to break the tie and win the match 19-16 for Saracens.
London Irish – Api Ratuniyarawa 19 | Bristol – Semi Radradra 13
A revived Bristol travel to London and play a winnable match against London Irish. While they sit at the bottom of the table a win here could catapult them a few rungs up the ladder.
London Irish got the win 23-7.
United Rugby Round 12 Jan 6-9
Benetton – Onisi Ratave 11 vs Ulster
Benetton are coming off the back of 3 straight wins starting with a big win over Bayonne in the Challenge Cup. Ratave scored a double in that match and has started every game since. The former Drua flyer is becoming somewhat of a cult hero for the Italian club.
Benetton make it 4 on the trot winning 31-29. Ratave scored in the 18th minute, his 3rd for the club. He latched onto a crossfield kick to run it in under the posts.
Edinburgh – Viliame Mata 20 vs Zebre
International number 8 Mata will come off the bench in this match in a move that can only be strategic. He has played 14 matches since his return from injury including both Champions Cup matches and 3 tests for Fiji.
Edinburgh got the win 24-17.Embed from Getty Images
League One Round 3 Jan 7-8
Panasonic Wild Knights – Marika Koroibete 11 | Mitsubishi Dynaboars – Epineri Uluiviti 8, Sam Chongkit 20
The Dynaboars sit at the top of the competition but their credentials will be tested this weekend against the reigning Champions who sit in 2nd spot.
UIuiviti has earned a starting spot after 2 good performances for the Dynaboars while Koroibete and the Wild Knights have won 2 close matches coming into this game.
The Wild Knights showed why they are the team to beat winning 40-5.
Yokohama Canon Eagles – Inoke Burua 14, Viliame Takayawa 22 @ Tokyo Sungoliath
Still no sign of Samu Kerevi for Suntory. Takayawa is moved to the bench for Yokahama while Burua remains in the starting side. He scored 2 tries in their round 2 draw with Kubota.
Suntory were up 23-11 in the second half before the Canon Eagles fought back. They fell short and Suntory scored late to seal the match. Takayawa scored in the 65th minute.
Toshiba Brave Lupus – Michael Leitch 8, Seta Tamanivalu 13, Jone Naikabula 14 | Shizouka Blue Revs – Samuela Anise 19
Toshiba heavily favoured in this match. The Blue Revs are yet to win this season. Anise has played every match while Isi Naisarani is yet to return from injury.
Leitch was outstanding in this match. Absolute turnover machine. Naikabula, who’s been in a bit of a tryscoring drought was at his destructive best scoring a hat-trick. Tamanivalu also caused major problems for the defence with his powerful carries. Toshiba won 29-16.
Kintetsu Liners – Jose Seru 8, Semisi Masirewa 11 vs Kubota Spears
Seru makes his first appearence this season. The skilful number 8 is a welcomed addition after a breakout season last year helping the Liners to the Division 2 title.
Masirewa with a double in their round 2 loss to Kobelco. They are 1 of 3 sides yet to win a match over the first 2 rounds.
A horrible defensive performance by Kintetsu as Kubota put 77 points on them. Masirewa scored for the Liners but was also yellow carded in the second half after an interception gone wrong. Final score 77-12.
NEC Green Rockets – Kavaia Tagivetaua 6, Aseri Masivou 8, Maritino Nemani 12 | Kobelco Kobe Steelers – Michael Little 13
No Taqele Naiyaravoro this week for NEC. No indication if he is injured. Masivou returns to the side while Nemani plays his first match of the season. Little has held his own for his new club in his first 2 matches.
Both sides with a win and a loss. NEC sit in 9th while Kobelco hold 6th position coming into this round.
A game that started with Nemani yellow carded 10 seconds into the game after taking the catcher in the air. He came back on 10 minutes into the game and was physical in attack. Little was excellent for the Steelers scoring a try and setting up another. The Steelers won the match 43-33.Embed from Getty Images
Toyota Verblitz – Viliame Tuidraki 22, Jone Nabetelevu 23 | Ricoh Black Rams – Netani Vakayalia 11, Nathan Hughes 19
Verblitz duo Tuidraki and Nabetelevu both benched this week along with Black Rams number 8 Hughes who will add a bit of impact late in the match. Ricoh have not had much to offer at the back end of games and are winless at the bottom of the table.
Ricoh get their first win of the season 29-25. Trailing for much of the second half but a strong finish secured the win. Toyota Verblitz dropped the ball over the tryline in the final minute which would have ensured victory but it wasn’t to be. Hughes provided good punch and impact off the bench while Vakayalia scored his second try of the season after a strong run beating several defenders.
No division 2 matches this weekend.
France Elite 1 Round 11 Jan 7-8
Carcassonne @ Albi
Pro D2 – Kolinio Ramoka, Tevita Railevu, Kaminieli Rasaku, Luke Tagi
Top 14 – Josua Tuisova, Tavite Veredamu, Alivereti Raka
United Rugby – Onisi Ratave
League One – Jone Naikabula x 3, Viliame Takayawa, Semisi Masirewa, Netani Vakayalia, Michael Little
Player of the week
Our first player of the week for 2023 is Toshiba Brave Lupus power back Jone Naikabula. A destructive performance from the tryscoring whiz. The first hat trick of the season.
Special mention to Levani Botia who was exceptional in his first start at flanker in nearly 3 years for La Rochelle.