Botia scores twice as Flying Fijians end tour with a win
Enforcer Levani Botia scored two tries as the Vodafone Flying Fijians beat Japan 38-25 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.”