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Volavola Saves The Day

Volavola Saves The Day
June 18
10:20 2017

A drop goal from Vodafone Flying Fijians first five-eighth Ben Volavola on fulltime saved the day as they edged out Italy 22-19 at the ANZ Stadium, Suva yesterday.

What happened: In the 6th minute a backline move, which saw winger Timoci Nagusa running in to join play created the space for inside centre Eroni Vasiteri to burst through a gap and score the opening the try which was converted by Volavola for a 7-0 lead.

The Italians dominated play with their forwards dictating play as they took play inside the Fijian half. The Flying Fijians were penalised for collapsing the scrum and Italy first five eight Tommaso Allan converted as they trailed 7-3. The visitors continued the pressure and Allan was on target with his second penalty.

Then the Flying Fijians struck again in the 13th minute with lock forward Leone Nakarawa running the blindside to offload a pass to Vereniki Goneva who created  space for Jale Vatubua to score his first Test try. Volavola added the extras to extend the lead to 14-6. Just minutes before halftime Allan kicked in his third penalty.

Halftime: Flying Fijians 14-9 Italy.

Flying Fijian head coach John McKee made changes with tighthead prop Manasa Saulo coming in for Kalivati Tawake. This allowed Peni Ravai to play at loosehead prop.

In the 44th minute Italy from a scrum took to the blindside and dashing through was Goneva who made an intercept and scooted down the sideline to score in the corner with Volavola’s missing the conversion as they led 19-9.

Both teams made tactical changes as they fought hard to get the upper hand. In the

53rd minute Flying Fijians No.8 Nemani Nagusa copped a yellow card for a late tackle on Italy’s winger.

With a man down, the visitors utilised their rolling maul and scored their try in the 57th minute to flanker Maxime Mbanda, which was converted by Allan as they narrowed the deficit to 19-16.

The Flying Fijians missed a number of scoring opportunities after Nakarawa broke  through the defence but wrong options by the supporting players wasted the effort.

In the 78th minute Allan drew Italy level to 19-19 after slotting another penalty. This had the Flying Fijians in trouble as they defended desperately but a break by Nakarawa saw him raced away and was caught metres out from the Italy tryline and Vatubua could not take the pass.

From the scrum the Flying Fijians applied pressure and won a turn-over that saw replacement halfback Nikola Matawalu set-up Voalvola for the drop goal to seal the win 22-19.

Comments: Vodafone Flying Fijians head coach John McKee said:

“We had a lot of opportunities which we gave away and we probably need to improve on that and keep our mind focused.

“One of the things that we’re working on is building our depths and looking ahead to our next game. It is very important for us to get the World Cup qualifier so we need to take a tough team to take on Samoa and Tonga.

“One thing for the future, we need to keep our eye on the depth of the games as we can’t be very competitive against big teams if we’re relying either on 23 players..”

Italy head coach Conor O’Shea said: “I feel our scrum today was excellent but unfortunately we had some break lines and from the three quarters perspective we had a lot turnovers that’s something we need to look out for.

“We reacted despite having a lot of young players but we’re delighted to have put on a good performance. We will keep building from here and at the moment we’re competitive people and it hurts me as it was a game we thought we would probably win. This was my first time in Fiji and it has been such a pleasure to have come and play rugby here.”

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