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Maroons in top form

Kameli Rakoko
Tuesday, May 14, 2013

VILIAME Satala's Lautoka last Saturday proved to be the in-form team in the Digicel Cup competition when they knocked Suva out flat on their doorsteps.

Suva fans may have taken rugby manager Isa Nasilasila's comments on Fiji One television lightly when he threw down the gauntlet and said that Lautoka enjoys beating Suva on their own ground.

That's the type of attitude Lautoka displayed at a soggy Albert Park and they mastered the conditions better and were better prepared. Viseisei's Nasilasila is a former Lautoka back himself and has developed a fine combination with Satala. We wish them all the best for the rest of the season.

Lautoka controlled their set pieces very well and shoved the big heavy Suva pack around and some Suva forwards may have had the wrong spikes for the conditions as they skidded in the scrums.

Lautoka forward Peniona Ranitu had a superb afternoon finding the mark on all occasions with his locks and jumpers Taione Ratu and Anasa Vasukiwai.

Big number eight Timoci Vuadreu was too hot to handle and ran almost fifty metres through the Suva defence on one occasion.

It was a stop start affair for Suva and they failed to find their rhythm because of dropped passes, forward passes and passes that failed to find the receiver.

While Lautoka handled well it points back to Suva's training schedule and overtrain and lack of recovery time. As always is the case, lack of rest between training sessions or overloading Thursday sessions and captain's runs on Fridays will eventually lead to fatigue. Poor ball handling down the line from forwards to fullback is a sign of this.

Players are like machines. When they are tuned right they will function with precision.

It could have easily been Suva's game had they maintained possession.

Understandably, with new assistant coaches Belasio Vukiwai and Iosefo Bele helping Suva coach Salimoni Ravouvou out this may have inadvertently overloaded the players.

They don't really have to go back to the drawing board as all they have to do is attend to the basics well and regulate training sessions better.

This means winning the lineouts, putting on longer spikes when the ground is wet and adapt to the conditions.

Lobbed passes are more successful in the wet than torpedo passes.

So the loss is just a hiccup to the capital side and they should thank Lautoka for this is what they call a blessing in disguise.

Suva players became frustrated and Manasa Saulo was red-carded for throwing a punch and another player used his fist and went unnoticed. In the end the Suva players turned their frustrations on referee Samu Tuidraki continually questioning his decision but the Narewa, Nadi man was firm.

Suva winger Apisai Nawaqaliva was not given a chance to show what he is capable of because the only balls that were passed to him were either forward or unreachable.

But the big winger gave the Suva fans something to cheer for in the first half when he made a run through the middle bursting through tackles and only heavy traffic stopped him. We look forward to more action from him in the future.

The weather seemed to have affected defending Digicel Cup champions Nadroga too at Lawaqa because they survived a Namosi onslaught and came out 13-10 winners in the end.

Namosi are thriving under new coach Timoci Wainiqolo, a former national lock, who also represented Fiji in sevens and spent a couple of seasons in New Zealand.

I remember his first interview in the Fiji camp preparing for the 1991 Hong Kong Sevens.

He was a newcomer to Ratu Kitione Vesikula's type of training.

He said every time he went down to the ground to train at Albert Park, as soon as he saw the bearded Tukiti he would almost suffocate with fear.

"Na gauna kece au dau lako kina ki tereni, au dau raica na turaga kumi qo sa duri tu sa dua na ka na noqu dau domobula, noqui cegu tu saraga i domoqu i cake qo."

Wainiqolo ignored his fear and he reaped the fruit when he scored that winning try by slam-dunking the ball on the line. He is still reaping the fruit now.

Namosi adapted to the conditions better and led 10-0 before Nadroga woke up and won 13-10.

Vatukoula's 15-10 win against Macuata is a significant one as the tailenders including Ovalau will be fighting to stay away from playing the promotion/relegation.

Because the newly-promoted side Namosi has quickly established themselves as one of the best teams in the major divisions.

They are former holders of the Farebrother-Sullivan trophy and they have a couple of wins up their sleeves.

As for Banuve Tabakaucoro switching to rugby will have to be seen and running 10.4 in the hundred metres will surely be useful but he wants to break the 10s barrier and go to nine seconds.

Eliki Nukutabu's 10.1 national record and Jone Delai's 10.3 Pacific record set in Tahiti in 1995 are also in his sights.

South Pacific Games silver medalist Iowane Dovumatua, who ran 10.5 seconds, before getting injured in rugby, and ended up with silver in the Samoa South Pacific Games is also back and available.

Iowane represented Rewa for a couple of seasons, was called once into the Fiji sevens squad and last year was nursing an injury.

He should be back in action this year and he now works in Suva and may turn out for St John Marist in the Suva club competition.

Tabakaucoro clocked 21.18 seconds in Noumea last year to break the old record of 21.26 seconds set by Niko Verekauta in the 2007 Apia games.

Verekauta is already in the Fiji sevens squad and throw in Dovumatua and Tabakaucoro will be an explosive attacking unit.

All you have to do is throw them the ball and walk back to wait for the new kick.

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