The Fijiana XVs played with huge spirit, but were no match for the Canadians, losing 7-24 in Suva last night, in an encounter the home side’s head coach Senirusi Seruvakula says provided a lot of learnings for the home side before they make their RWC debut in New Zealand next month.
“Now they realised how Test matches are played and its going to get harder playing against England in our opening game, but, I am proud of the girls and how they played, and lifted womens rugby in Fiji,” Seruvakula said.
“We have never played a test against a team like the number 3 in the world, so there is a lot of positives in there, a lot of learning, that we have to go back to review our game and we will learn from that.”
Among the learnings, he says is to improve on their set pieces, and maintaining posession for a longer period through the final whistle.
“We cant afford to be giving penalties playing Test rugby and also in our set opieces, we have to be fighting all times in the scrum and line-out until the final whistle. We need to improve in the scrum, we need to hold the scrum for 30. They have big forwards and its going to be the same against other teams, so we need to keep discplined when we are doing that and we have to maintain the ball. If we do not have the ball, then we can’t do anything.”
Seruvakula was pleased with how well the 7s reps readjusted themselves having only joined the team this week. Lavena Cavuru, at scrumhalf, and Sesenieli Donu at outside centre were among the standouts and played the full 80 minutes. Seruvakula is optimistic that in the two weeks before the RWC, the duo and their four fellow Fiji sevens reps will be more attuned to the kind of game and structure the national side has in place before their first game against the number one ranked side, England on 8 October.
Canada had the edge and showed their experience from the first whistle in heavy underfoot at the HFC Bank Stadium, pressuring the Fijiana in numerous occassion forcing errors on the part of the home side. It worked well for the visitors who ensured the game was kept in the Fijiana’s territory for the most part of the first 40 minutes, forcing the Fijiana to play on the defensive which they did commendably well against Canada’s heavy forwards.
However, they could only do so much. Into the second half, Canada wasted no time, capitalising on a handling error by the Fijiana to score the first points of the match in the 52nd minute via a try by centre Sara Kaljuve. Scrumhalf Brianna Miller nailed the conversion to put the visitors in the lead 7-0.
But, it was not long before the Fijiana reciprocated.
Three minutes later 7s’ Sesenieli Donu, playing at centre and one of the standouts of the game, intercepted a Canadian pass, making a break to find Akanisi Sokoiwasa, who started off the bench, in the clear to score. Fijiana scrumhalf and 7s’ Lavena Cavuru, who along with Donu played the full 80 minutes of the game, levelled the score 7-all with a successful conversion.
About 10 minutes later, Donu was sent off, allowing Canada a break to squeeze in their second try via centre Maddy Grant.
The Canada was awarded a penalty try not long after the Fijiana were penalised in front of their try-line before Tyson Beukeboom, who came in as sub to pick up her 50th cap, marked it with a try to put the game out of reach for the home side.
The Fijiana XVs departs for New Zealand tomorrow.
Impact/Significance of Game (World Rugby extracts)
The outcome of the game means the Fijiana remain 21st on the ranking and Canada, third.
This was the home side’s final warm-up match before RWC2011 start where the Fijiana will make their debut and have been drawn alongside No.1 England, No.4 France and eleventh ranked South Africa in Pool C.
Canada became the seventh nation that Fijiana have faced in a test match after Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong, Japan and Australia. It was the second time that Fijiana have faced a team ranked in the top 10 of the World Rugby Women’s Rankings powered by Capgemini, with Australia the first in May. It was also the Fijiana’s 18th test match since they made their debut in 2006. The game was also the Fijiana’s first test on home soil since they beat Samoa 41-13 in November 2019 to qualify for Rugby World Cup 2021. It was also the Fijiana’s sixth test of the year after losses to Japan (28-14) and Australia (36-19)
and victories over Papua New Guinea (152-0), Tonga (34-0) and Samoa (31-24). Their 152-0 victory over Papua New Guinea in the Oceania Rugby Women’s Championship 2022 in New Zealand in July is the highest score ever in a women’s test match. Prior to the Canada game, the Fijiana played a non-cap match against Wahine Maori at the same venue on 16 September, running out 32-10 winners with Vitalina Naikore scoring a hat-trick
FIJIANA: 15 Alowesi Nakoci, 14 Ana Maria Naimasi, 13 Sesenieli Donu, 12 Raijieli Laqeretabua, 11 Vitaline Naikore, 10 Merewalesi Rokouono (VC), 9 Lavena Cavuru, 8 Sereima Leweniqila (c), 7 Ema Adivitaloga, 6 Karalaini Naisewa, 5 Merevesi Ofakimalino, 4 Asinate Serevi, 3 Mereoni Vonosere, 2 Bitila Tawake, 1 Joma Rubuti
Reserves: 16 Jiowana Sauto, 17 Iris Verebalavu, Bulou Vasuturaga, Raijieli Daveua, Rusila Nagasau, Kolora Tamani, Akanisi Sokoiwasa, Roela Radiniyavuni
CANADA: 15 Elissa Allarie, 14 Maddy Grand, 13 Annais Holly, 12 Sara Kaljuve, 11 Alysha Ciorrigan, 10 Julia Schell, 9 Brianna Miller, 8 Sophie De Goede (c), 7 Karen Paquin, 6 Fabiola Forteza, 5 Mckinley Hunt, 4 Courtney Holtkamp, 3 Daleaka Menin, 2 Emily Tuttosi, 1 Brittany Kassil
Reserves: Gillian Boag, Mikiela Nelson, Alex Ellis, Tyson Beukeboom, Emma Taylor, Gabrielle Senft, Alex Tessier, Taylor Perry
Crowd: 1500; Referee: Amber McLachlan