FIJI are the new Armed Forces World Champions. With a great display of hard clever rugby in murky conditions they beat the British Army at the Stoop by 30 pts—10.
But Oh– where were the Fijians who would fumble in the rain, crumble in the tight and stumble across a boggy Stoop. They simply didn’t turn up.
For the Army this was a reality check. The Army did not play badly but an unbeaten Fijian XV responded to the occasion with powerful surges, penetrating skills and tackling from the top draw.
From the opening moments when lock Save Tabakanalagi seized on a mix of fumbles and indecision, to the last quarter after full back Jaoji Dakuvula dictated that the game would be played in the Army’s half , the South Sea Islanders controlled the scoreboard.
In attack the Fijians dazzled with slick accurate passing in the drizzle. They were adventurous, unpredictable and varied the pressure points forcing the Army defences to scramble. Too frequently, for a side that believed it could win, the Army missed crucial tackles and the cover had to be committed prematurely.
Worse, the Army failed to hit the top marks where it had expected to dominate. At the scrum they achieved parity at best. The line out was woeful allowing the Fiji back row to maraud off the tail-end when the Army had deployed to drive forwards.
Inexplicably the Army ‘crowned’ Fiji full back Dakavula as Man of Match and possibly the Championship. Too frequently they pin pointed his position and rammed the ball down his throat. Dakuvula has a 70 metre hoof and he, almost singlehandedly, ensured the Army was forced to play a defensive game in their own half, frequently resorting to desperate measures.
Gloom of course but for the Army this is, emphatically, not a back to the drawing board situation. The Reds were no less brave, no less determined and were as fit as they possibly could be. They were simply forced to play a game at a tempo that was new to them and where the time for decision making had to be instinctive.
They did spasmodically attack, none more prominent than Chris Leathem and Mattie Dwyer who is getting used to carrying the ball. Apo Vata added urgency—by which time it had become very urgent!
Fiji ran in a further three tries through Koroitakali,a second for Tabakanalani and finally Dretvierata. Dakuvula notched 10 pts with the boot.
In the dying moments Knoxy Laqekero scored a fine consolation try. Owain Davies converted from the touch line to add to his brace of penalties
The Army has had a very good competition and Head Coach Andy Sanger will recognise new faces have entered the tortuous frame of selection for Army honours. None more so than wing Chris Leathem and scrum half Apo Vata. Just those two gives him options.
The Fijians have articulated the joys of rugby. No other team reached such heights and, in truth, they transformed the Defence Championship. It is very difficult seeing any nation wrest the Arthur Harrison VC Trophy back when the IDRC moves to Japan 2019.