Botia shows classic toughness in Fiji’s win

THE Vodafone Flying Fijians’ tough inside centre Levani Botia thundered up the sideline to set up a try and gave the Tongans something to remember him by.

He then helped the Vereniki Goneva-captained Flying Fijians side to weather a powerful Tongan storm to score two late tries to win their Pacific Cup opener 30-22 at the ANZ Stadium yesterday.

Playing one of his best rugby games in the fifteens code the Naitasiri man received a Tongan kick at halfway and made a dash along the sideline in front of the grandstand.

He bulldozed his way through, bumping off two Tongan tacklers, like in ten-pin bowling, to set up a try for halfback Henry Seniloli and this revamped a Fijian side that had seemingly wilted to the Tongan aggression.

His tackles and solid defence in midfield with skipper Goneva stemmed in the tide of the Tongan wave of attacks.

Waisea Nayacalevu in the 66th minute, replacement prop Peni Ravai in the 74th minute scored crucial tries to steer Fiji to a deservedly, hard-earned victory in front of crowd of about 6000 spectators.

The robust Tongan pack had unsettled the Fijians with powerful tackles and good rucks and mauls from the kick-off creating a total of thirteen turnovers in the match while Fiji made only three turnovers in the first half and a couple in the second half one which led to Nayacalevu’s try in the final quarter.

They shocked Fiji in the sixth minute with a try after five consecutive rucks and sent the ball wide to winger Fetu’u Vainikolo at the corner for their first try.

In the 22nd minute flyhalf Ben Volavola kicked his first penalty for Fiji’s points to trail 3-5.

The Tongans kicking let them down as they missed a couple of penalties and conversion from far out and only converted the two tries from in front of the posts.

But they scored a penalty at just before halftime as Fiji led 10-8.

In the second half the Tongans won a scrum in midfieled after Volavola over kicked from kick-off.

They strung together five consecutive rucks before blasting through the Fijian defence for a try under the posts in the 43rd minute.

They led 15-10 but Volavola came back with two penalties in the 51st and 57th for Fiji to lead 16-15.

Fiji were continually penalised in the rucks, six times in the first half and eight times in the second half and in one of these Tongan forays winger Tane Takulua scored, what looked like a controversial try as he had not reached the tryline, but the referee awarded it.

Tonga was leading into the final quarter 22-16.

Replacement halfback Nikola Matawalu made some promising counter attack moves and his 65th try was not allowed as he had fumbled on the tryline.

From the ensuing scrum the Tongans lost the ball in a ruck and Matawalu quickly sent the ball wide for Nayacalevu to score. Volavola converted and Fiji led 23-22.

Tongan Fosita missed another penalty kick the 70th minute.

Then replacement flanker Nemia Soqeta blasted through the Tongan defence only to be stopped short of the tryline.

From the ruck replacement prop Ravai crashed his way under the posts giving Volavola an easy conversion.

It was an evenly matched game but Fiji will have to improve in their ball control as the Tongans turned over several balls and there were also a number of infringements in the tackled ball situations.

However, they improved greatly on the line-outs losing only two while they grabbed three Tongan throws. The Tongans had nine scrums to Fiji’s four and it was definitely a fine, hard and clean rugby game.

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