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Scoreless in rugby

Manoj Kumar
Tuesday, February 05, 2013

How many no score draw local provincial level rugby games comes to your mind? Nil-all after 80 minutes of rugby is unthinkable. You'd at least expect a penalty or two to go over.

Back in 1986, Suva met Rewa in a Vat 69 Trophy challenge. Suva went into the match as holders and favourites while the Rewans were hoping to cause an upset.

Rewa was led by coach/player Jo Rauto.

Power pack

The Rewa pack looked dominant right from the start. Prop Rauto and Apenisa Sassen were the key players with the latter out-hooking national team hooker Epeli Rakai with four tight heads.

It was in this game that the late Aisake Nadolo showed that he was national rep material at lock. He took some lovely two-handed catches in the lineouts. While the Rewa forwards won possession in a hard-fought battle with the opposition, the backs were having an off-day.

There was far too much aimless kicking, fumbled passes and unforced errors. They just could not get the backline swing going.

Pacey Mitchell

Suva, led by Esala Teleni at the back of the scrum had their fair share of possession. Their go-to man in the backline was Fiji team wing Tom Mitchell.

He had pace to burn and was robust, often making some crucial breaks but they could not turn vital possession into points.

The Rewa players, mainly the backs, made up for the wasted chances by giving it their all in defence whenever Suva cranked up a gear and got close to their tryline.

The game was locked nil-all at the break with no early signs of a breakthrough either after the resumption. There were some penalty attempts that could not find the target.

Rugged Yacalevu

Rewa outside centre Kameli Yacalevu provided some spark to an otherwise dull backline performance.

He turned on the heat every time he got his hands on the ball, making inroads up the middle but those around him were way off their game.

There were dropped passes and wayward kicking as the Rewans wasted a lot of possession when keeping the ball in hand, taking the tackle and recycling would have been a better option. Nadolo was a tower of strength for Suva and they often used his lineout skill to set up their rolling mauls.

The match headed into the last 10 minutes and the scoreline still stood at 0-0.

Last-gasp penalty

Suva looked more likely to score as they camped in the opposition half but the stubborn Rewa defence weathered the late storm that came their way. However, in the final few minutes it looked like Suva was going to win the match as they were awarded a penalty five metres from the try line.

It was a kickable penalty. The home fans at Ratu Cakobau Park knew they were in for a heart-breaking last minute. It was a kickable penalty and by the time the kicker would have slotted the ball over the crossbar and in between the uprights, 80 minutes would have been up and the game would have been over.

Much to the surprise of Rewa players, fans and even their own fans, Suva opted for a tap penalty with the view to crashing over for four points (four points given for a try back then). They tapped and tried to pushover the line but the Rewa players took them head-on and held them out. With that went Suva's hopes of snatching a win although they knew even a draw would be good enough to retain the trophy, which they did. But they failed to break the duck on the scoreboard and after 80 minutes of an evenly-contested match the scores remained Suva 0 Rewa 0.

Western XV

That was the same Saturday in May when the late Iokimi Finau and his Western XV took on the might of Wales at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

Ifereimi Tawake was the pick of the pack of an outstanding display by the Western XV and they almost pulled off a shock. In the end, the visiting Welsh side, fielding Jonathan Davies, who represented Wales in both union and league, edged home 19-14.

There was a lot of talk about that spirited Western XV performance but the Rewa-Suva game will be long remembered too. Not because it had a lot of thrills and spills but because it ended scoreless.

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