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Try scoring machine

Kameli Rakoko
Sunday, February 03, 2013

SENIVALATI Laulau is still the country's top try-scorer in the Fiji Rugby Union records and with Tevita Makutu they still hold the top try scored in a game record of six tries each.

From his try-scoring debut on the 1980 New Zealand XV tour Laulau scored a total of 200 points from tries.

While the late Senivalati Laulau featured in many sevens trips to Hong Kong the most memorable victory was the 1984 win against New Zealand where Fiji won 26-0.

Since his sevens debut in the British colony in 1982 Laulau had never been in a winning Fiji sevens team until 1984.

The coach for that team was Hyatt Regency Hotel general manager Ian Duncan and he had revived rugby in the Hyatt rugby team and produced such players as Noa Nadruku, Keleto Loboilagi and Etuate 'Honda' Gusuivalu.

Since 1982 Laulau had staked his claim as the fastest in the tournament but when the Fiji team came over in 1984 many rugby followers were surprised that the fastest man in Hong Kong was at rover and not at winger.

That meant that there was a faster man on the outside.

Duncan's ploy had worked and while Laulau drew the markings of the opposition defence Honda took over the scoring.

When they began focusing on Honda Laulau made the inside breaks.

The team had the combination of Paulo Nawalu and Acura Niuqila with Domoniko Manaseitava, Sela Gutugutuwai, Aliposo Waqaliti and Keleto Loboilagi.

It was a very big win for Fiji especially after beating New Zealand who were playing as a national team for the first time.

When this writer went over to Hong Kong in 1991 they were still asking for Honda and he was quite popular with the Chinese community there.

Previously they had been represented by provincial teams, which won the national sevens tournament.

So when the same team got knocked out early under coach Rupeni Ravonu in 1985 and the Kiwis had run out of reserves, they borrowed Laulau to play for them in the final and they won.

Only eight players were allowed to travel and teams could borrow players from other teams when they ran out of reserves.

So he has the record of playing for two national teams on the same day and two different winning teams two years in a row. That's Laulau.

In the full code he was praised not only by local coaches but by overseas coaches as well as a man they would have wanted to be in their team.

In view of the lack of general speed displayed by our team now in Wellington one would have wished for the speed of Laulau, the tearaway runner who left everything for dead in his wake.

In the Argentine tour in San Juan against a West Regional Selection which Fiji won 84-18 Laulau scored four tries, Isimeli Cerelala, Makutu, Kini Vosailagi and hooker Mosese Tamata scored two tries each, while a try each by Jo Ravouvou, Pita Kewa and Jone Ratu.

Match reports of that game played on a warm night said 'the winger picked an intercept near his 22-metre line. Then he scampered back behind his tryline, crossed behind his post and came scorching up in a weaving and swerving run.

He darted by defender after defender and went the length of the field to dive for a try in the corner. Teammates ran to congratulate him.

The crowd at the San Martin soccer stadium rose in hand clapping and foot stomping applause.

"I just can't say anything beating 15 men," Laulau told reporters.

"What a magnificent try. It has never been seen for a long time from any Fiji player," team manager Euate Tavai said.

"An amazing try," English top referee Laurie Prideaux said.

Later in his career Laulau was top try scorer in every match he played in especially the big wins over Queensland and Sydney here and in Australia in the Trans-Tasman competition that saw Fiji play top provincial sides from Australia and New Zealand.

Fiji beat Queensland 49-24 and Sydney 33-19 and Lulau was again the star of the big wins.

In the game against the Western Regional Selection in Argentina he had inside backs Jone Ratu and Kini Vosailagi providing him with the gaps.

Many tries and stories of Laulau's games and we can continue every week, but he will be remembered still in the record books as Fiji's top try scorer ever. He later tried coaching the national sevens team on two tours to Hong Kong but failed to win the title

Former teammate on that Argentine tour as well as all his Fiji XVs and sevens teammates will read this story and remember the soft-spoken Nadi man as one of the country's best scoring machine. The official record agrees.

We may never have another Laulau and we can all remember him for his contribution to Fiji rugby as Nadroga's Jone Ratu said, a man who gave everything to rugby.

"He was an unstoppable man and he always gave all his heart on the rugby field during a game and also in training," Ratu said.

"He was a humble and respectable man who trained as he played, always pushing to the limit, never giving up."

The Nawaka man may have left us but he has left a legacy that every young man who wants to achieve big things, can follow.

Lai Moce re Aule. So long Laulau.

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