Fiji has to rectify their scrums if the team wants to qualify for the quarter finals in the Rugby World Cup in France after getting slaughtered by Tonga in the set pieces in their 15-21 loss at Churchill Park in Lautoka on Saturday.
Tonga won on average four tightheads out of every 10 Fiji put ins and showed a glaring disparity in Fiji’s set pieces holding their own scrums and lineouts to win the majority of possession in their first win over third placed Fiji in the Pacific Nations Cup match.
Fiji’s lineouts were not any better with Tonga stealing throw ins by Fijian hooker Sunia Koto and it was a miracle that Fiji was ahead 15-3 at halftime with the amount of possession Tonga had.
Number eight Sisa Koyamaibole had to continually peel from backpedaling own scrum to form rucks to provide cleaner balls for halfback Mosese Rauluni to work with.
With a quicker and mobile flyhalf and speedy centres Tonga would have scored over 40 points with the amount of possession they won.
Fiji’s front row of Henry Qiodravu, Sunia Koto and Graham Dewes sorely lacked the skills and power from veteran Tongan trio Tevita Taumoepeau, Aleki Lutui and Taufaao Felise whose strength took its toll on the Fijians in the second half.
Fiji sorely needs the services of Deacon Manu and Joe Bale to be able to match up to the scrums of Australia and Wales in their pool matches in France.
Fiji had no answers to the Reds dominant scrum which began to demoralize the Fijians with tighthead after tighthead and when Fiji won their own scrum were moving back so fast Sisa could not create any momentum when peeling from the base.
The only light in a darkened tunnel for Fiji was the debuting of five eighth Waisea Luveniyali who has the boots, vision and aggression to put Fiji on the front foot when they do win possession and forward moving scrums and rucks.
His variation in overhead, in-between centres grubbers and running into the ball with pace from Rauluni has opened up options which Fiji could hope and utilize especially in France in two months.
His touchfinders when the need arose especially penalties; conversions and deft touches when distributing the ball has shown the man is way above his age level and has the maturity and potential to step up from the Under 21 ranks.
Koyamaibole showed size, speed and aggression matters, facing up to and negating the advances of giant Tongan number eight Samiu Vahafolau.
Vahafolau easily scored a try in the dying stages of the match after Sisa was replaced.
Welcome back to French based Aca Ratuva who continually created havoc for the Tongans cleaning up in the contact and break downs with a lot of enthusiasm.
Koto is the number one rake at this stage but definitely needs to improve in the lineouts with the only option of Ifereimi Rawaqa need to be opened up with possibly Kele Leawere or Aca Ratuva who could easily be hoisted up as the case may arise.
Otherwise it becomes predictable and Fiji’s lineouts will be continually stolen as has been the case with the last three matches in the Junior All Blacks, Australia and Tonga on Saturday.
Tonga showed patience and control to endure Fiji’s all out attack in the first half and muscled their way back in the second half scoring three tries to shut out any hopes of a Fijian win.
2nd minute: A renewed Fiji shows aggression and vigour attacking Tonga from the kick off with sustained attacks pinning Tonga in their own 10 metre line and rewarded with a penalty. Leftie five eighth Waisea Luveniyali converts. 3-0.
4th minute: Sisa Koyamaible is penalized on Fiji’s 22 metre and Tongan fullback Mesiu Lemoto misses the attempt.
5th minute: Koyamaibole peels from the base of the scrum to form a ruck to provide cleaner ball for halfback Rauluni.
7th minute: Halfback, five-eighth combination still being worked on as Rauluni sends a pass behind Luveniyali whose forward momentum is a breath of fresh air.
Tonga gains 15 metres from this mishap and wins a solid scrum from the srum 22 metres out.
8th minute: Fiji steals ball from Tongans and Rauluni starts a counter-attack which would have been converted had the ball bounced right for attacking Isoa Neivua and centre Gabiriele Lovobalavu with an overhead punt from Luveniyali.
9th minute: Tonga holds their own in the lineout winning their own throw in cleanly.
10th minute: Fiji still advances despite buckling scrum after Rauluni sends out a quick pass to Neivua who beats three Tongan defenders before being stopped.
13th minute: Another wave of attack by Fijians sees Luveniyali take on two Tongans and popping a short pass to Lovobalavu who forms another ruck five metres out. Ratuva pushes Kele Leawere over for a try. Luveniyali misses conversion 8-0.
16th minute: Tongan fullback Lemoto misses his second penalty after Koyamaibole is penalized for an unintentional high tackle.
21 minute: Lemoto converts on Fiji’s 22; Fiji 8-3 Tonga.
29th minute: Luveniyali shows he has what it takes to secure possession from a penalty after putting a 30 metre lineout advantage.
30th minute: Advantage all comes to nought when the lineout is stolen by Tongans.
39th minute: Hooker Sunia Koto steals a kick from Tongans on Fiji’s 25 metre line and leads a counter attack which is finished off with a try by Lovobalavu after the ball changes hands six times in a wonderful handling, running display. Luveniyali converts; Fiji 15-3 Tonga.
40th minute: Lemoto converts another penalty from 22 metre line after Fiji penalized in a ruck. Fiji 15-6 Tonga.
Summary: The first half was an upward battle for Fiji as far as possession was concerned but converted the little they had with two tries and a penalty. Koyamaibole shows he has improved in his number eight position with the short stint in Italy and has the guts to mix it with the Tongans. Five eighth Luveniyali shows crispness and vision from the pivotal role; maybe cementing his place ahead of Jack Prasad. Aca Rauva is all over the park cleaning up in the break downs and contact situations showing fitness and stamina.
41st minute: Rauluni shows aggression and quickness to steal Tongan scrum ball after confusion between their halfback Soane Havea and number eight Samiu Vahafolau on who was to pick it up.
44th minute: Rawaqa miscues on another lineout and taps the ball to Tongans blowing another opportunity to utilize the 35 metre advantage secured by a penalty line by Luveniyali.
46th minute: Luveniyali shows poise and pace running into the ball from a Rauluni pass to hand over the ball to centre Lovobalavu and Kameli Ratuvou. Ratuvou rarely getting any opportunity shows his speed running between the Tongans and then caught 20 metres out from a good tackle by Lemoto.
47th minute: Sisa penalized for holding on to the ball in a ruck formed after peeling from the base of a scrum which collapses after a Rauluni put in.
50th minute: Confusion in the replacements as Dale Tonawai comes in place of Ratuva then changes to Deryck Thomas.
53rd minute. Tongan winger Sione Fonua misses a try after getting pushed out a metre from the tryline after Tongan scrum, rucks and mauls give them momentum to attack.
56th minute: Tongan centre Suka Hufanga scores a try after he stayed on his feet from three Fijian tackles and his second surge sees him over the line. Lemoto misses conversion; 15-11.
60th minute: Tongan hooker Aleki Lutui scores from a forward shoving front eight which results from a lineout 5 metres out. The lineout resulted from a 40 metre kick for touch after Ratuva handled the ball in a ruck about halfway. Lemoto misses conversion. Fiji 15-16 Tonga.
70th minute: Tongans win another tighthead .
75th minute: Fiji denied a try after an attack all the way from their 22 metre line.
82nd minute: Tongans win a tighthead from their 22 metre line and attacks the Fijians all the way to their 22 metre line. A ruck from 10 metres out sees Tongan number eight Samiu Vahafolau score after running through a few tacklers.
Fiji 15-21 Tonga.
Summary: Fiji needs to hold their own in the scrums and lineouts to win enough possession to be a challenge in the final match against Australia A on Saturday. Scoring tries from the lucky bounce or kick as Lovobalavu scored in the 39th minute from a lucky Sunia Koto steal will not win us matches. Until our set pieces are secured with at least 80 percent assurance of our own scrums and 100 percent in the lineouts we are going in as beggars in France.
What happened to the easy lineouts won during the Wayne Pivac or Brad Johnstone eras? Don’t we have enough brains and time to practice the moves in lineouts especially where we can easily gain possession. Without them we will see what happened at least twice on Saturday continually happen. We win a penalty; Luveniyali secures a 30-40 metre advantage and we lose the lineout. It is a waste of time and possession.
Until we have another Joeli Veitayaki as a tighthead to anchor our scrums; which we don’t currently; we might as well go all out to secure the services of Deacon Manu.
We have seen a bright spot in flyhalf Waisea Luveniyali who has the natural giftings as a kicker to gain yardage in penalties and a crafty distributor to put our fast centres and wingers on attack.
A little bit of tinkering and studying of the opposition’s defences will bring the tries we have been missing for years.
Match statistics: FIJI: 1. Graham Dewes 2. Sunia Koto (Vereniki Sauturaga, 73) 3. Henry Qiodravu (Apisai Turukawa, 50) 4. Ifereimi Rawaqa 5. Kele Leawere 6. Deryck Thomas (Dale Tonawai, 50) 7. Aca Ratuva 8. Sisa Koyamaibole (Alifereti Doviverata, 63) 9. Moses Rauluni (Captain) 10. Waisea Luveniyali 11. Isoa Neivua 12. Gabiriele Lovobalavu 13. Kameli Ratuvou 14. Michael Tagicakibau (Vereniki Goneva, 63) 15. Norman Ligairi.Replacements not used: Jone Daunivucu, Sisa Waqa.
Tries: Kele Leawere, Gabiriele Lovobalavu.
Conversions: Waisea Luveniyali.
Penalties: Waisea Luveniyali.
TONGA: 1. Taufa’ao Filise (Toma Toka, 63) 2. Aleki Lutui 3. Tevita Taumoepeau 4. Sione Kalamafoni 5. Chris Hala’ufia (Teu’i Muli Kaufusi, 40) 6. Hale T-Pole 7. Otenili Latu (Captain) 8. Samiu Vahafolau 9. Soane Havea 10. Tevita Tu’ifua 11. Seti Kole (Siua Taumololo, 71) 12. Hudson Tonga’uiha (Epeli Taione, 48) 13. Suka Hufanga 14. Sione Fonua 15. Mesiu Lemoto.Replacements not used: Feki Moala, Isileli Fine, Tevita Ahoafi.Tries: Suke Hufanga, Aleki Lutui, Samiu Vahafolau.
Penalties: Mesiu Lemoto (2)