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Historic drop goal

Maciu Malo
Saturday, May 17, 2014

MANASA Qoro's breathtaking drop goal against Italy at the 1987 Rugby World Cup booted him into rugby's history books.

The more than 40-metre kick through the uprights by the Nawaka warrior in New Zealand made him the first forward in world rugby to score points from a drop goal in a world cup match.

The second drop goal was from All Blacks number 8 Zinzan Brooke when he nailed a 48-metre drop in the 1995 Rugby World Cup against England.

The former Flying Fijian forward's contribution also enabled his team to become the first Flying Fijians outfit to reach the world cup quarter-final long before the Ilivasi Tabua-coached side repeated the feat in 2007.

Recalling his childhood days in the village, Qoro said he achieved the milestone to prove his elders wrong.

"During my early childhood days, I was one of the naughty kids in the village," he said.

"One of my uncles always told me that I would end up in prison because of my mischievous ways.

"This inspired me to push myself on the rugby field because I wanted to prove my uncle wrong."

The now 49-year-old started his career with the Nawaka team before being named in the Nadi team in 1984.

Three years later he made his debut in the Fiji 7s team before being selected for the Fiji 15s side to the 1987 Rugby World Cup in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Provincial competition

Qoro is renowned as one of the fiercest and fearless rugby forwards to have ever come from our shores.

His ruthlessness on the rugby field drew him acclaim from far and wide and he was well known for never stepping back when the going got tough.

The Nawaka warrior treated the rugby paddock as a battlefield and always gave his best to make his village and Nadi proud.

"Sometimes while playing, I would always recall what my uncle had told me — that I would end up behind bars" said Qoro.

"This made me to treat all my opposing players as my enemies and I believe this also enabled me to excel in the sport.

"The never-say-die attitude in me was my weapon in all the games."

Qoro said he still regarded Nadroga as his toughest opposing team and he still cherished some unforgettable moments from the game against the Stallions.

"The rivalry between Nadi and Nadroga players in those days was second to none."

"I still vividly remember the rivalry and battle against the Nadroga players.

"One of my toughest opponents in the Nadroga team was prop forward and former national rep Peniasi Damu.

"Every time and anywhere on the field we crossed paths, we not only tackled or defended but we also exchanged punches.

"This happened in all the Nadi-Nadroga games where we played against each other.

"But off-the-field we were good friends.

"This is something unique about rugby — you punished each other in the field and become best friends off the field.

"Sometimes when I meet Damu, we always talked about those rugby moments which I believe made us to excel in rugby."

Qoro said he was fortunate to be one of the few to have won the coveted Farebrother-Sullivan trophy and the now-Skipper Cup for Nadi during his heyday.

National team and that famous drop goal

Qoro made his debut for the Flying Fijians against Queensland in April 1987 before being selected for the Rugby World Cup in May.

The magical moment when he scored the three pointer against Italy in the pool game was one that he would take to the grave as his proudest.

"I never realised that this unintentional drop goal had made me famous in world rugby."

"I thought the referee had blown the whistle after our centre Kaiava Salusalu had dropped the ball. I didn't know that whistle was from the spectators.

"So I just picked up the ball and attempted the drop goal and I got a real shock when I heard a huge cheer from the crowd. A few seconds later I heard another whistle- this time it was the referee with his right hand in the air awarding Fiji the three points from that field goal."

Qoro said he was not surprised that the now-famous drop goal went through because he had always been one of the chosen kickers for his village rugby team during club games.

He said he was proud to be part of the first Fiji 15s side to reach the world cup quarter-final.

"We could have reached the semi-final but unfortunately our fullback Severo Koroduadua dropped the ball against France on his way to the try line.

"But I was happy with our effort despite losing to France in the quarter-final."

Qoro said the 1987 team members were not paid unlike other top rugby nations.

"It was our pride for the country and the passion for rugby enabled us to achieve Fiji's best ever outing in a 15s rugby world cup," he added.

Qoro's drop goal has been rated in the Top 10 rugby world cup drop goals.

An overseas media report about that famous drop goal stated that "Fiji flanker Manasa Qoro, sweeping from the front of a lineout, took a tap down from a throw to the back, stepped outside the 15m line and, in a breathtaking display of skill, hammered home a 40m goal.

While Fiji lost the match 18-15 to Italy, the South Sea Islanders still advanced to the quarter-finals on try count. In this knockout game, the upstart Fijians gave France a real hurry up before falling 31-16, in a contest famous for flyhalf Severo Koroduadua, wide open and en route to score a sensational try, inexplicably losing the ball into touch.

As for Qoro, his performance versus Italy was the first time he had ever played in the forwards. He was normally a centre.

Only in Fiji.

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