Match report: Junior All Blacks thump Fiji
June 2, 2007
The widening gulf in rugby between the island nations and New Zealand was graphically illustrated by the Junior All Blacks when they crushed Fiji 57-8 in today.
Despite assembling their best players from around the world, the hapless Fijians were no match for the New Zealanders, who dominated all facets to score eight tries to one.
The Junior All Blacks, essentially New Zealand B, fielded several players who had appeared for the test team and who are fighting for places in the squad for this year's World Cup.
They scored four tries in the first half to lead 29-3 and often snaffled Fiji's throw-ins, turned over the ball from the locals at the rucks and shoved them backwards in the scrums in the second half.
The athletic Fijians did show glimpses of their running game but they ran into trouble often when they went into the tackle and were unable to recycle the ball.
In comparison, the speed of the Junior All Blacks' second and third phase play upset the Fijian defence, that looked solid at the start but deteriorated as the game progressed.
From the moment Ross Filipo stole a Fiji feed into a lineout barely two minutes into the game, it was clear the locals were going to face an uphill battle.
The Junior All Blacks' first try by centre Casey Laulala was the result a classic piece of rugby.
They were patient in building pressure, exploited both flanks through quick hands by the backs and when the defence, still fresh, proved difficult to break down they took it into a rolling maul to make headway before catching the defence short on the left as winger Anthony Tuitavake drew the last defender to put Laulala away.
Halfback Andrew Ellis, enjoying a steady stream of possession behind a dominant pack, scored the second try after All Blacks winger Rico Gear fended off big No 8 Tomasi Soqeta to clear the way.
Fullback Cory Jane spun out of some poor Fijian tackles to score the third and Gear crossed for the fourth after Mose Tuiali'i peeled off the back of a scrum and brushed off three defenders on a 40m surge.
When the cover defence finally closed in, the Crusaders loose forward crossed kicked for Gear to pick up and score.
Junior All Blacks front rowers Wyatt Crockett, Derren Witcombe and Campbell Johnstone all had robust games, while Greg Rawlinson, Filipo and Jerome Kaino helped maintain a steady supply of good ball by taking several Fijian lineouts.
Fijian heads went down after Tuiali'i scored a try six minutes after halftime and it appeared the 29degC heat affected them more than the New Zealanders.
The biggest victory scored by the forwards as a unit came in the 56th minute when they were awarded a penalty try.
The Fijians were pushed back over their own line from a 5m scrum and then came from offside positions in a bid to prevent a try.
Replacements Scott Hamilton and Tane Tuipulotu also scored a try each.
Junior All Black coaches Ian Foster and Colin Cooper were delighted with their team's performance and the way they did not allow Fiji to come into the game.
"It was a pretty pleasing performance. I think we really suffocated the Fijians and we kept that up for 80 minutes," Foster told NZPA.
"We were quite determined to grow our game in that area (playing for 80 minutes) after quite a physical one against Samoa. We wanted to do better on the pick and go, the scrums and lineouts."
Foster said Samoa's physical approach did not allow them to settle and impose their own game on the islanders and the Junior All Blacks were determined to change that by draining the resistance of their opponents today.
"If you don't make the (Fijian) forwards work really hard in the scrums and lineouts, they'll have a lot of energy to run around. Then they can make it quite difficult for you.
"I think our defence took a big step from last week. They (Fiji) showed with their one try what they're capable -- make some thing from nothing -- but I think overall we suffocated them."
Result of a Pacific Nations Cup rugby match in Suva today:-
Junior All Blacks 57 (Casey Laulala, Andrew Ellis, Corey Jane, Rico Gear, Mose Tuiali'i, Scott Hamilton, Tane Tu'ipulotu tries; penalty try; Stephen Donald pen, 5 con, Stephen Brett 2 con) Fiji 8 (Gabiriele Lovobalavu try; Vitori Buatava pen). Halftime: 29-3.
Pacific Nations Cup rugby results and standings after matches today:-
Japan 20 Tonga 17, Australia A 27 Samoa 15, Junior All Blacks 57 Fiji 8.
Standings P W D L F A BP Pts
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