That Fijian off-load
7 June, 2018, 11:00 am
THEY were the stars of the Barbarians when it ran riot against England rugby team on May 27.
Scoring nine tries to five, match statistics revealed the Barbarians capped off a sublime performance with 751 running metres, beating 34 defenders and making 12 clean breaks.
Not bad for a team that had only three training sessions together spending each and every midweek night out to dinner and events.
The English lost its first match in four years to the Barbarians and conceding the most amount of points in 108 years at Twickenham.
But the talk of the game was the uncapped code-hopper Semi Radradra whose bustling runs, scintillating footwork and off-loads earned him the man-of-the-match award.
His try, running through the England wall, was the icing on the cake for one of rugby’s hottest property.
Just like the thousands of fans who were looking forward to the game, I was up early that morning to watch the game. An exciting game because it’s the first time two Fijians manned the centres position for the World Barbarians — Josh Matavesi donned the number 12 jersey while Semi “The Trailer” was outside of him and “The Bus” Tuisova running the flanks.
In the seventh minute of the game and Radradra makes a clean break from inside their territory, slicing through the defensive wall of Henry Trinder and Chris Robshaw to off-load to Tuisova who outstripped Mike Brown before passing to Christ Ashton for the Ash Splash over the white-wash.
Time and time again, the Trailer proved to be a handful for the English. Oh the joy of waking up early and watching the game.
But I was furious and frustrated when the commentators labelled him as Sonny Bill Radradra. What metaphorical nonsense is this?
OK. Just like dual international Sonny Bill Williams, who departed the Canterbury Bulldogs, Radraradra left Parramatta Eels to join a star-studded Toulon rugby side.
And I hope this particular commentator reads this — Sonny Bill Williams and Semi Radradra are two different people. I write this with no disrespect to SBW, he remains one of the best players in the modern era, very humble and a great ambassador of the game.
Fijians can forever argue and say SBW is not the off-load king, wihle there is a “Sonny Bill Williams off-load,” as often mentioned by rugby commentators, there is also the outrageous and freakish Fijian off-load.
Leone Nakarawa, arguably one of the best in the business and European rugby player of the year, is a class above the rest. His ability to run with ball in one hand and off-loading in the tackle is something that has continued to mesmerise European rugby pundits.
Then there is the unorthodox and uncanny off-load by Votua giant Pio Tuwai. His deceptive footwork and no look pass is always something to look for. He has done it in the local and international stage, that even commentators consider him as the off-load King. Drawing two defenders his back pass at the Dubai 7s in 2013 was deemed the fans’ favourite try of the tournament. Another back pass during the 2015 Hong Kong 7s tournament, while falling to the ground saw Jerry Tuwai dot down under the sticks. He did it again when he ignited the tired then Ben Ryan-coached side in the tournament a year later guiding Fiji to its second consecutive Hong Kong title. Fiji beat New Zealand 21-7.
NZ had the services of 15s World Cup winners Liam Messam and Sonny Bill Williams. SBW hardly had any breaks or his trademark off-load but Pio Tuwai ignited the Fiji team in the second spell and scores were locked 7-all.
Then there is this season World Sevens Series, where the Gareth Baber-coached side has been playing a different brand, fast-paced style that has left opponents guessing as to what is coming up next. Their display of sevens rugby is now the talk of the town, and a topic of discussion at yaqona sessions. Baber has continued and reignited the Fijian flamboyance.
That off-load by Kalioni Nasoko that saw the nippy Army speed-merchant Alosio Naduva sprint to the try-line untouched and guiding Fiji to its first Hamilton title. The freakish offload from Jasa Veremalua, throwing a no-look overhead pass, earned it the pass of the London tournament. That coupled with the many other outlandish offloads during the tournament, kept everyone on the edge their seat. Radradra was again at his ultimate best and was named the player of the tournament.
Fiji is probably the team that has scored the most tries this season, if that is true then I can bet that majority of these tries are from those unbelievable off-loads.
That is the Fijian off-load.