After hitting rock bottom, Fiji flying again at World Cup

Fiji’s Frank Lomani leaps in the air to take the ball during the Pool D game aagainst Georgia. (AP)
Updated 03 October 2019

After hitting rock bottom, Fiji flying again at World Cup

OSAKA: After hitting rock bottom, the Fijians are flying again at the Rugby World Cup.

Fiji picked their flagging campaign with seven tries and scintillating attacking rugby in a 45-10 win over Georgia on Thursday, paying back their fans with a performance to remember eight days after losing 30-27 to Uruguay in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets.

“They really wanted to make a statement today. They’re very proud to represent their country and it means a lot to them,” Fiji head coach John McKee said. “Very pleased by the performance from the Flying Fijians. Good to see us showing some of our flair and our talents.”

The teeming rain didn’t affect Fiji’s running game, which proved far too strong for a Georgia lineup hoping to seal third place in Pool D with a win, which would have ensured automatic qualification for the 2023 World Cup.

Instead, Fiji have moved ahead of Georgia and provisionally over Australia into second place.

Fiji are still to face group leaders Wales and Georgia are up against two-time champion Australia, which have played one game less than Fiji.

It was a sign of things to come when Waisea Nayacalevu’s spectacular first try put Fiji ahead midway through the first half.

The tries came thick and fast after the halftime interval: Six more from the Fijians who thrilled the crowd with one-handed passes and spectacular running. Georgia’s only try went to veteran Mamuka Gorgodze — his fourth overall in World Cups — briefly making it close at 17-10.

Left winger Semi Radradra scored two tries, with the other four coming from scrumhalf Frank Lomani, right winger Josua Tuisova, flanker Semi Kunatani and replacement lock Api Ratuniyarawa. With Fiji’s forward as slick as the backs, Georgia was simply overwhelmed.

“Once you let Fiji in behind you and they get a couple of passes together, it’s very hard to defend. It’s a bit like 7s rugby,” Georgia coach Milton Haig said. “We made a couple of critical errors in the second half which they ended up scoring from. Once they get their tails up, they’re the best in the world at scoring those kinds of tries.”

In the first half the scrums were evenly contested, with Georgia getting the upper hand at times.

Following a high Fiji tackle in the 15th minute, Soso Matiashvili took an attempt at goal from about 30 meters out wide on the right. The flag went up, then down, and three Georgia points were rubbed off the scoreboard.

Minutes later, a moment of typical Fiji improvization caught Georgia cold as Radradra did well to stop flyhalf Ben Volavola’s grubber kick going out. He showed good hands to feed the ball quickly and accurately inside to the surging Nayacalevu, who sprinted clear.

Volavola slotted the first of his five conversions and was not needed for penalty goals, given the rampant mood Fiji were in.


Dortmund, Favre face tough questions after Bayern’s ‘big step’

Updated 29 May 2020

Dortmund, Favre face tough questions after Bayern’s ‘big step’

  • Several German newspapers have suggested Favre is set to leave at the end of the season

BERLIN: Borussia Dortmund visit bottom side Paderborn on Sunday with uncertainty surrounding the future of coach Lucien Favre after Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat by Bayern Munich left their Bundesliga title dreams in tatters.

Favre and Dortmund were forced to deny rumors that he is set to resign, and face Paderborn attempting to at least keep some pressure on reigning champions Bayern, who sit seven points clear with six matches remaining.

Second-placed Dortmund may also have to make do without Erling Braut Haaland, after the teenage sensation was injured against Bayern, reportedly in an accidental collision with the referee.

Swiss Favre was forced to clarify comments made on Tuesday when he said he would “talk about it (his future) in a few weeks,” saying the following day that he was not “giving up at all.”

Several German newspapers have suggested Favre is set to leave at the end of the season, with Niko Kovac, who was sacked by Bayern last year, reported to be his likely successor.

“We are certainly not having a coaching debate,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc insisted to Sport1.

“Lucien must have expressed himself misleadingly in a moment immediately after the game.”

Barring an unlikely late-season collapse from Bayern, it will be the second straight season that Favre’s Dortmund have pushed their rivals close in the title race before ultimately coming up short.

Dortmund led for much of the campaign last term but stumbled late to finish two points off the pace.

“We said before the season that we wanted to play for the title again,” added Zorc.

“We didn’t manage to be better than Bayern. Now we can be disappointed, take a deep breath, and then set a new goal for Sunday. Full focus is on second place.”

Dortmund will be confident of getting back on track against a Paderborn side who are rooted to the foot of the table, eight points adrift of the relegation playoff spot, despite three consecutive draws since the Bundesliga resumed following the coronavirus lockdown.

“We mustn’t talk of a miracle because there are still 18 points to be won,” said Paderborn coach Steffen Baumgart.

“As long as it’s still mathematically possible we have to give it everything we’ve got.”

Bayern are now firmly on track for a record-extending eighth straight title and on Saturday host a Fortuna Duesseldorf side who boosted their survival hopes with a 2-1 midweek win against freefalling Schalke.

“We set out to take a big step (against Dortmund). We succeeded. We showed a lot of determination,” said Bayern coach Hansi Flick.

Duesseldorf, who occupy the relegation playoff spot, are five points clear of second-bottom Werder Bremen, although the four-time Bundesliga champions have a game in hand.

Bremen, who have only spent one season out of the top flight since the Bundesliga’s formation in 1963, visit Schalke on Saturday.

Schalke coach David Wagner is under pressure after his side threw away their European hopes with a 10-match winless run, including three straight defeats since the restart of the season.

Dortmund will need Jadon Sancho to be back at his best on Sunday, with Haaland’s injury leaving them without a recognized out-and-out striker.

English winger Sancho is yet to start a game since the restart after his own fitness problems, but has featured as a subsitute in all three matches.

The 20-year-old has scored 17 goals in all competitions this season.