Players Ratings: Old ugly habits
OPINION: Fiji entered their Saturday fixture with Ireland on the back of a 12-28 loss to Scotland.
While they had fared well in the first half in Edinburgh, Fiji fell apart in the second spell and coach Vern Cotter would have been hoping for a more consistent performance from his charges.
In that regard, the Flying Fijians were up for the challenge. They started strongly, scoring the opening try of the game, and repelled countless Ireland attacks throughout the first 40 to eventually head into the break down 21-10. A red card to Abert Tuisue early in the second half meant a win was always unlikely, but they hung tough, eventually falling to a 35-17 defeat. Once again, discipline was an issue for Fiji but there were some strong attacking displays from a number of players.
Tom Vinicombe rates the Fiji players
1. Eroni Mawi – 6
A busy, busy game from the loosehead prop. Tackled his heart out – sometimes when the opposition didn’t have the ball – and made the most carries of anyone in the Fijian forward pack. Grabbed the first penalty of the match with some good work at the breakdown and also earned his side one at the scrum. Conceded two of his own in the first half, however, for bringing down the Irish maul, and then copped a third in the second spell. Lost the ball when Fiji started to string some phases together early in the second half. Off in 59th minute.
2. Samuel Matavesi – 7
Nailed all bar one of his lineout deliveries for Fiji, granting the visiting side some useful attacking ball. Didn’t get involved much in the carry but made a game-high 20 tackles and was wisely kept on the field until the final moments. Off in 76th minute.
3. Manasa Saulo – 5
Didn’t have the same impact as his front-row partners but didn’t shirk his defensive work. Copped a penalty for offside defence on the try line and was binned for 10 minutes, with Ireland scoring twice in his absence. Off in 63rd minute.
4. Isoa Nasilasila – 5
Made a couple of nice runs and was the key man at the lineout for Fiji but dropped a few tackles which put his side under pressure when Ireland got their phase-game going.
5. Ratu Leone Rotuisolia – 6
Lasted little more than a quarter of the match but got through plenty of work in his time on the park, chalking up nine tackles and hitting countless breakdowns. Off in 24th minute.
6. Albert Tuisue – 3
Carried strongly in the first 40. Spent some time on the sidelines in the first half after Saulo’s yellow card and was then permanently sent off in the 46th minute for a dangerous tackle. He was more than willing on both attack and defence but Fiji’s hopes were effectively ended with his head-high shot on Joey Carberry.
7. Levani Botia – 6
Coughed up the ball from a big carry, with Ireland scoring from the turned-over possession. Had a mixed day at the ruck. Incurred a penalty for an illegal breakdown steal but won a crucial penalty on the goal line to shut down an Ireland attack right on the cusp of halftime. Made a couple of nice runs and was one of the busiest defenders on the park, with 16 to his name. Off in 55th minute.
8. Viliame Mata – 7
One of Fiji’s best. Managed to disrupt a few Ireland rucks to help turn over ball. Pinged for running obstruction from an Irish kick. Had to deal with some messy ball at the back of the scrum but generally managed superbly. Carved off 34 metres with the ball in hand and his offloading game caused created a few seams in the Irish defence.
9. Frank Lomani – 5
Looked good when he played instinctively and caused a few issues with his running game but was too often tentative at the base of the ruck, however, and delivered some scrappy ball to his teammates – although some of that could definitely be attributed to the forwards’ lack of dominance. Sent his first kick out on the full, handing Ireland prime attacking ball. Off in 48th minute.
10. Teti Tela – 4
Had little influence on the match. Perhaps wisely sent the ball onto his more dangerous outside men but it allowed the Ireland defenders to effectively shift off him in defence. Not the answer at No 10 for Fiji. Off in 43rd minute.
11. Vinaya Habosi – 7
Had a couple of hiccups on defence but caused an equal number of problems for his opposition defenders. Broke down the left-hand flank and sent the ball in-field to set up the first try of the afternoon. Helped force Jack Conan into touch when the Irish No 8 came within inches of scoring.
12. Kalaveti Ravouvou – 5
Did especially well to prevent Conan scoring shortly before halftime and made some strong carries but was shade by the other three midfielders on the park. Coughed the ball up from a slick lineout move. Off in 59th minute.
13. Waisea Nayacalevu – 6
Always chalked up metres when given the ball in the midfield, either by brushing off defenders or carrying them with him. Needed more support from his teammates at times.
14. Jiuta Wainiqolo – 8
Danced around Ireland defenders throughout and outpaced opposite Mack Hansen on more than one occasion, but it was his run early in the final quarter that caused the most damage, with his offload to Simione Kuruvoli creating Fiji’s second try. Chalked up over 130 metres with the ball – 60 more than the next biggest metre-eater on the park.
15. Setareki Tuicuvu – 5
Threw a brilliant offload to send Habosi away on a damaging run and generally handled Ireland’s kicking game well. Worked better as a link man than a runner himself.
16. Mesulame Dolokoto
On in 76th minute.
17. Livai Natave
On in 59th minute.
18. Lee-Roy Atalifo
On for a few minutes near the half-hour mark as a temporary replacement at the scrum then joined permanently in the 63rd minute.
19. Apisalome Ratuniyarawa
On in 24th minute. Sin-binned in the 51st minute for collapsing the maul.
20. Johnny Dyer
On in 55th minute.
21. Simione Kuruvoli
On in 48th minute. Ran a great support line to grab Fiji’s second try.
22. Ben Volavola
1/1 cons. On in 43rd minute. Had his first kick charged down. Put Ireland under pressure when he started to get his running and short kicking games going as the second half progressed.
23. Adrea Cocagi
On in 59th minute.