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Weather plays key role

Kameli Rakoko
Wednesday, August 06, 2014

FORGET all the ratings prior to the knockout stages of the Coke Zero Deans schools rugby premier competition as we go into the finals next week at Churchill Park in Lautoka.

Eastern Zone third place winners Lelean Memorial School have overcome the odds to win a spot in the final against Ratu Kadavulevu School and the fairytale may not be over yet.

It is believed that the cream of the RKS under-18 side will not be available for the final as they have been selected to play in a sevens tournament in Japan next week.

So the Davuilevu boys have a good chance of claiming their first U18 Deans title since its inception a couple of years ago.

Last Saturday they went into sudden death play with Queen Victoria School and a penalty saw them through.

RKS also survived the sudden death after defending champions Ratu Navula shocked many rugby pundits by neutralising the powerful Lodoni pack with good rugby basics and smart play.

The depth of rugby know-how gave the westerners the edge as they are part of the Nadi Rugby Union development program.

But Ratu Navula was the only team of the four semi-finalists who exploited the weather conditions to the full while QVS could have maintained their unbeaten record against Lelean had they recognised the unique advantage they had and changed their game pattern.

RKS should have wrapped up that game in the second half of normal play had they also been sensitive to nature.

Laucala Bay is the home of the south easterly tradewinds that unceasingly blows across the sea from Mataisuva, Makuluva and Nukulau.

But on Saturday it didn't. It blew from the opposite direction, a constant northerly with momentary gusts, I guess, of about 20 to 25 knots.

To the average spectator on the stands this will sound ridiculous and irrelevant but to those who have been there and done it the weather is vital to winning games

With team strengths almost the same the weather component will, and always will, play a major difference between winning and losing.

QVS had the wind and blazing sun in the first half shining directly at the Lelean players but they opted to run the ball at every opportunity even from their own half. Even though they had a lighter pack they had superb fitness enabling them to string several phases and scoring the equaliser after the fulltime hooter.

Fiji athletics sprint coach Jone Koroi has been instrumental in the fitness of the Matavatucou boys not only in rugby but was responsible for the improved performance in this year's Coca-Cola Games.

His training program and influence was best utilised by Ilikimi Kunagogo, when he was principal of Suva Grammar in the late nineties to the years that followed which saw them become athletics and rugby champions of Fiji.

As for RKS the weather changed dramatically when they faced Ratu Navula. It was overcast and windy when the Nadi school side took the northern end in the first half.

But in the second half rain came down in drizzles making the ground and ball slippery, providing perfect conditions for attacking with high kicks even into the 22-metre area.

But the Lodoni boys only managed with two feeble kicks that screwed off the side of the boot not even getting across to the opposition half.

Next week the final will be played at Churchill Park and if it is a fine day the burning west sun is going to hang around for quite a while on top of the wooden grandstand before casting long shadows of the stand onto the ground from 4.30pm onwards.

If the game is held about 2-3pm then the team that wins the toss should elect to play with the sun behind them in the first half because at about 45 per cent angle the sun is still blazing hot and its glare hurt the eyes.

Flying Fijian fullback Metuisela Talebula knows all these too well as it is his home ground and he destroyed the Tongans in their June Test at Churchill Park because they could not handle his big bombs coming by way of the sun.

All RKS lower grades lost their semi-final matches and only the U18 and U19 are heading into the final.

It is almost a reverse situation of what happened in 1972 where all grades qualified for the final except the dream team who underestimated Lelean by fielding their second string side.

The Lelean senior team was represented by the intermediate side because the principal had suspended the whole Lelean U19 side for a drinking related incident.

The makeshift Lelean side beat RKS in the semi-final and the week after they drew with Marist in the final and shared the Deans Trophy.

One of the stars of that Lelean side Isimeli Radrodro joined RKS in 1973 and helped RKS win back the Deans Trophy from Lelean and Marist.

He went on to represent Fiji at first-five eighth and now resides in California, US.

Next week it will also be foolhardy for Lelean to underestimate RKS because of their depleted strength.

Their reserves have proven that they can do better. In the Eastern zone play-off against QVS the super subs came on and took the score from 11-10 to 23-10.

In the quarter-finals RKS rested the top players and brought in the reserves and they whipped Suva Grammar 48-17.

So for Lelean no distinct advantage may have been gained because of the absence of top RKS players.

On the contrary, the prospects of clipping the wings of the heron may have just got a little bit more tougher.

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