The Western Force have made a winning start to their Global Rapid Rugby Pacific campaign with a hard fought 12 point win over Fijian Latui in Lautoka, Fiji. The West Australian’s were made to work for the win as both sides scored three tries, however the boot of Force flyhalf AJ Alatimu proved the difference in the end.
While taking every chance they could to attack, it was their speed off the defensive line that was a highlight and something that Coach Tim Sampson had obviously drilled into his players given the scoring threats posed by Fijian Latui all over the park.
The home side didn’t do themselves any favours with some undisciplined play and a yellow card in each half made the job all that more difficult. While Fijian Latui were never out of the game, they didn’t have the same fluency as last week, although much of the credit for that could be attributed to the Western Force pressure.
A large and enthusiastic crowd of more than 6,000 people went through the gates at Churchill Park looking forward to another enthralling battle after seeing Fijian Latui win a thriller after the final hooter against Kagifa Samoa last weekend.
They didn’t have to wait too long before national team star Frank Lomani, who was making his return to action after missing the opening game with a shoulder injury, crossed for a try after just five minutes had expired.
The next 15 minutes turned into a battle of attrition as both sides poked and prodded the defensive lines. The Force caught a break when Latui skipper, Moese Voka, was shown a yellow card for a high tackle on Brad Lacey and the visitors made the most of their numerical advantage.
After a period of sustained pressure by the Force not far from their attacking try line, it took some quick thinking from scrumhalf Issak Fines whose cheeky a tap and go caught the Fijian Latui defence off guard and he scurried his way in goal.
While the Fijian’s weren’t able to convert their earlier try, there were no such worries for Alatimu who stepped up and nailed the kick to give the Force the lead which they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the afternoon.
The West Australian side had another try on the board six minutes later, this time Jack McGregor the recipient of an excellent platform built by the Force forward pack who wore down their opponents to create an opening for the speedy fullback to take advantage.
The first half for Fijian Latui was perhaps best summed up when the usually reliable John Stewart lost the ball forward after beating the defence and with the try line in sight.
Two penalty goals either side of the break to Alatimu took his personal points tally to 10 and the Western Force lead to 15.
Voka, who tried desperately to make up for his indiscretion in the opening half, gave the home fans something to get excited about when he barrelled over for a try to reduce the margin to 10 with 11 minutes remaining. Again, the Fijian’s couldn’t covert the kick and were left to rue their inaccuracy when Feleti Kaitu’u and, this time, Andrew Deegan, combined for a try and conversion respectively for the Force to make the margin the biggest of the game at 17 points.
With a minute and a half left and victory out of reach, the Fijian players made a concerted effort to give their loyal supporters something to remember on their way home, finding some rhythm and run to see Mesulame Dolokoto crash over in the left hand corner for a well worked try.
Despite the loss Fijian Latui remain on top of the Pacific Showcase ladder courtesy of their bonus point win a week ago.
Rapid Rugby action continues in Perth on Friday, 31 May when Western Force tackle Kagifa Samoa.
Starting XV: 1.Eroni MAWI, 2.Tuvere VUGAKOTO, 3.Luke TAGI, 4.Filimoni SERU, 5.Tuifagalele SOROVAKASTINI, 6.Mosese VOKA (C), 7.Elia CANAKAIVATA, 8.Johnny DYER, 9.Frank LOMANI, 10.Tuidraki SAMUSAMUVODRE, 11.Joeli LUTUMAILAGI, 12.John STEWART, 13.Ifereimi TOVILEVU, 14.Apisalome WAQATABU, 15.Enele TIKOTANI MALELE
Reserves: 16.Mesulame DOLOKOTO 17.Joeli VEITAYAKI, 18.Apisai VATUBULI, 19.Timoci DAVU, 20.Peni RAIDRE, 21.Seru VULARIKA, 22.Apisalome VOTA, 23.Tira PATTERSON WILAGI
Starting XV: 1.Markus VANZATI, 2.Heath TESSMANN, 3.Kieran LONGBOTTOM, 4.Johan BARDOUL, 5.Fergus LEE-WARNER, 6.Henry STOWERS, 7.Chris ALCOCK, 8.Brynard STANDER, 9.Issak FINES-LELEIWASA, 10.AJ ALATIMU, 11.Brad LACEY, 12.Henry TAEFU, 13.Marcel BRACHE (C), 14.Masivesi DAKUWAQA, 15.Jack MCGREGOR
Reserves: 16.Feleti KAITU’U, 17.Harrison LLOYD, 18.Tom SHEMINANT, 19.Leon POWER, 20.Tevin FERRIS, 21.Rory O’SULLIVAN, 22.Andrew DEEGAN, 23.Clay UYEN
Referee: Angus MABEY, AR1: Kaveni TALEMAIVALAGI, AR2: David VOSALEVU
|F.Lomani (FL)||Try||Fijian Latui by 5||5 – 0|
|I.Fines (WF)||Try||Tied||5 – 5|
|A.Alatimu (WF)||Conversion||Force by 2||5 – 7|
|J.McGregor (WF)||Try||Force by 7||5 – 12|
|A.Alatimu (WF)||Conversion||Force by 9||5 – 14|
|A.Alatimu (WF)||Penalty Goal||Force by 12||5 – 17|
|A.Alatimu (WF)||Penalty Goal||Force by 15||5 – 20|
|M.Voka (FL)||Try||Force by 10||10 – 20|
|F.Kaitu’u (WF)||Try||Force by 15||10 – 25|
|A.Deegan (WF)||Conversion||Force by 17||10 – 27|
|M.Dolokoto (FL)||Try||Force by 12||15 – 27|