Scotland took on Fiji at Churchill Park, Lautoka, in the exact opposite weather conditions to their victory against Australia a week ago. The Scots made two changes to the side that started against the Wallabies. Tim Visser made his Test debut on the left wing, with captain Ross Ford winning his 60th cap.
Fiji showed off a new war dance before kick-off to excite the crowd and showed they were in a combative mood with trademark big hits being put into Scottish players. Scotland started sluggishly, conceding two penalties in the first 10 minutes. One came from a Richie Gray loose offload that would have been more at home at a rugby sevens game. The Fijian fly half showed good temperament to convert both, and put his team 6-0 up.
Yet another penalty was awarded to the Fijians for holding, no doubt much to the annoyance of head coach Andy Robinson. However, this time, from about 50 metres out, the Fijian fly half had the distance but his kick was well wide of the Scottish posts. Scotland shook themselves out of their slumber with a strong maul from a lineout deep into the Fijian half, and after a few phases of possession, Greig Laidlaw showed his scrum half instincts to sniff a gap on the Fijian line to score the first try of the game, making it 6-5. He duly converted his own try to make it 6-7.
The hard ground was inviting for the likes of Richie Gray who was rampant and made a great offload to openside flanker Ross Rennie who showed great pace and desire to get onto Gray’s shoulder and burst through a gap in the Fijian defensive line, only to be brought down by good scramble defence. From a resulting scrum five metres from the Fijian try line, the Scottish scrum, showing its dominance, surged forward to the try line only for a Fijian forward to interfere with the ball, leading South African referee, Jaco Peyper to award a penalty try under the posts. Laidlaw increased his points tally with an easy conversion straight in front of the posts to make it 14-6 after 25 minutes.
Gathering the restart, Mike Blair kicked the ball straight out for a Fijian line out back deep inside the Scottish 22. The Fijian hooker threw long to a team-mate, who surged close to the Scottish line stretching the defence. Fortunately for the Scots, a Fiji pass was intercepted on the line and Mike Blair was able to clear the ball to touch to relieve the danger. Despite this, from the resulting lineout, hard running by Fiji led to them going over for their first try to make the score 11-14, with the fly half missing the conversion.
Those watching the game in the early hours would have been frustrated by ESPN’s coverage and technical faults, however Laidlaw’s kicking couldn’t be faulted as he kicked another penalty around the 35 minute mark to make it 11-17. Fiji continued to show ferocity in the tackle, with further big hits on the Scots, including Richie Gray, who was lifted off his feat. A loose kick by the Fijians the found its way to young fullback Stuart Hogg, a relation of George Best, who could not step his way past the defence despite his quick feet.
Another passage of play saw good recycling of the ball, involving the work rate of Alaistair Strockosh and Rennie. Outside centre Nick De Luca was picked out, and he floated a lovely ball out to debutant Tim Visser, taking Visser’s opposite wing out of the game to enable the Dutch-born winger to dive in at the left corner for his first try for Scotland. This made it 11-22, and Laidlaw kept up his impressive kicking, slotting home the conversion from out wide on the left touchline to make it 11-24. Visser’s try was the last significant event of the first half and Andy Robinson would have been pleased to see the ball getting out wide to his wingers, Visser and Evans. Stuart Hogg had nothing to do defensively at fullback either.
After the break, Fiji’s attacking instincts were not dampened by the scoreline. A loose ball from a Ross Ford lineout then reached an oncoming Fijian, who broke through a tackle but was brought down by another. Laidlaw proceeded to place his tee on the ground to kick a penalty for offside to make it 11-27. Fiji replied through 21-year-old Waisea Nayacalevu, who is set to join Stade Francais next season. His try, which made it 16-27, was converted to bring the Fijians up to 18. With the Fijian heat inevitably taking its toll on the Scottish players, tackles were missed and gaps began to appear in the defence.
With 17 minutes gone in the second-half, Fiji’s fearless, and at times almost careless offloading in the tackle in attack seemed infectious with Stuart Hogg throwing a needless “backdoor” pass seeing a Scotland move break down. The resulting line out saw the Fijian number 18 lucky not to be sent to the sign bin for challenging Richie Gray in the air.
Fiji continued their exciting brand of attacking rugby and were rewarded with Talebula going over after an impressive sidestep to beat fullback Hogg, from a great break and fantastic pass out of the tackle by his scrum half. The try was converted to set up a close finish at 25-27. A Laidlaw penalty made the score 25-30, and was followed by a great tackle by Nick De Luca in defence, driving back the Fijian attack with a fantastic leg drive forcing the turnover. With five minutes to go Laidlaw put up a high “up and under” which wasn’t gathered by the Fijian wing. The ball fell into the hands of Visser, who went over for his second try of the game to mark an impressive debut. Converted by Laidlaw, the score was 25-37. It finished thus.
Andy Robinson will be happy with the win over a rather unstructured Fiji side, and two straight victories on Scotland’s summer tour. Tougher tasks lie ahead, however. to make it two victories out of two so far in their summer tour, but tougher tasks lie ahead. The Scottish and Fijian players proceeded to join together in a large huddle for a prayer led by the Fijians and the swapping of shirts; a great advert for rugby and a nice conclusion to an entertaining game.
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- Live Sport Reports: Rennie admits Fiji fear for Scotland (walesonline.co.uk)
- Rugby: Scotland skipper Ross Ford: Rookie Tim Visser can help us beat Fiji at their own game (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- Rennie admits Fiji fear for Scotland (standard.co.uk)
- National Sport: Rennie admits Fiji fear for Scotland (coventrytelegraph.net)
- Rugby: Fired-up Scotland will put on a show for the fans against Fiji, says Stuart Hogg (dailyrecord.co.uk)