EDITORIAL: What Went Wrong For The Flying Fijians

Several issues conspired against the Vodafone Flying Fijians yesterday. Some were self inflicted, others were beyond their control. There were some big moments that could have swung the game our
20 Sep 2015 16:08
EDITORIAL: What Went Wrong  For The Flying Fijians
Nikola Matawalu races towards the tryline. Photo: Ian Muir

Several issues conspired against the Vodafone Flying Fijians yesterday. Some were self inflicted, others were beyond their control.

There were some big moments that could have swung the game our way.

But some of referee South African Jaco Peyper’s decisions spoiled those chances. They were  major blows that were morale-sapping.

First he awarded a great try by halfback Nikola Matawalu. Then he disallowed it after the TMO’s intervention. Under the current rules, once a referee has awarded a try, it stands.

The linesmen did not object. It was the TMO, another South African, Shaun Veldsman, in his replay of the sequence of the events that ended on the tryline, who changed the course of the game. He volunteered the information to the referee that the ball had been dropped before grounding.

Peyper did not ask for TMO assistance. For the whole game it looked as if Veldsman, instead of   Payper, was refereeing the game. All of Fiji’s plays that were suspected of infringement were subjected to tough TMO scrutiny.

But when Nemani Nadolo threw his arms in the air to complain about an English player holding the ball on the ground and not releasing it, Peyper did nothing. The TMO replay showed the England player had clearly held on to the ball.

The second incident involved a reckless round-the-neck tackle  on Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa. The offender was only penalised.

He should have been sin-binned too like Fijian halfback Nikola Matawalu who was charged with an illegal tackle.

This was much more severe than the harmless so-called speartackle by blindside Dominiko Waqaniburotu. The disparity in rulings gives rise to perception that there is a certain degree of bias against non-Tier One nations.

If there was one time we would beat England it was yesterday. England were there for the taking. For their ranking and standard, that was a woeful performance. Against other Tier-One nations, they would have been hammered. Fiji could have done it but our reps did not take their A-game to Twickenham. They fell short and  paid heavily.

England too left their A-game in the dressing room and it was really in the last 20 minutes that they gained their  ascendency.

Fiji did not help themselves, either, because of unenforced errors.

They had a horror start when first five-eighth Ben Volavola dropped a regulation catch. The ball may have been slippery because of the light rain earlier but he looked nervous playing his first major game in front of more than 80,000 spectators.

The much talked-about backline did not fire except for Nadolo who showed the sort of damage he could cause when he is in full flight.

The forwards, though conceding a penalty try, won five scrums to England’s four in the first 57th minutes.

We got 11 turnovers compared to England’s four. For tackles made we notched 127 and England 77. We conceded 10 penalties and England 11.

There were periods in that game, especially in the first 20 minutes of the second half, that we looked good in the physicality department. We looked hungry and threatening but we failed to convert those promising periods into points.

The in-your-face defence rattled the English and forced them into mistakes. But we could not capitalise on their errors.

The sin-binning of Matawalu gave England the breathing space and allowed them to lift their games.

Finally, we failed to convert three penalties and one conversion. If we  had bagged those points and the disallowed try, the final outcome might have been different.

Against the Australian Wallabies on Thursday next week, the Flying Fijians must be in peak form to be competitive.




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