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.

Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

Updated 14 November 2019

Fernando Alonso ramps up Dakar Rally preparations with podium finish at AlUla-Neom cross-country rally

  • The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion tackles Dakar
  • Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place

JEDDAH: Fernando Alonso continued his preparations for his Dakar Rally debut in Saudi Arabia by taking third place in AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally and secure his inaugural rally podium finish in the process this week.
The result comes at perfect timing less than two months before two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso takes the wheel for Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020, the Middle East’s first-ever edition of Dakar Rally, which is hosted by the kingdom from 5 to 17 January.
“It was an ideal preparation for Dakar as we discovered new terrain that we will come across again at Dakar,” Alonso said.
“It is a great feeling to finish third and get the first rally podium in my life. The fact that it happened here in Saudi Arabia at this time gives us a lot of confidence going into Dakar,” Alonso added.
Starting in AlUla and extending over 765km before the finale in Neom, AlUla-Neom Cross-Country Rally was contested across four stages over five days, and the former Formula 1 champion said it was an “excellent training” for him on a similar terrain and in close weather conditions to what would be expected at Dakar.
Saudi driver Yazeed Al-Rajhi took first place at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally, while compatriot Yasir Seaidan finished second, with Alonso rounding off the podium places.
Alonso, who made his desert rally debut in Morocco last month, was co-driven by five-time Dakar bike winner Marc Coma, and the Spanish duo will be together again at Dakar Saudi Arabia as part of the Toyota Gazoo Racing team.
The 2005 and 2006 Formula 1 champion got his campaign at Al Ula-Neom Cross-Country Rally underway to a good start on Day 1 before taking the pace up a notch on the second and third days to set his team up for a podium finish on the last day. “We continue with our plan and preparations, step by step and adapting as fast as we can,” Alonso said of his plans ahead of Dakar.
Dakar Saudi Arabia 2020 will consist of 12 stages, allowing pilots coming from across six continents to discover Saudi Arabia’s rich past, live its modernized present, and meet its future as they race through the Kingdom.
The pilots will kick off Rally Dakar from Jeddah, the bride of the Red Sea, through to Neom, a fully sustainable city of the future, then pass by the historical sites of Riyadh to face the Empty Quarter, a huge desert of unbroken sand, to end in Qiddiya, a future entertainment, sports and cultural destination.
A criminal investigation was been launched after an armed man intercepted a vehicle taking part in the rally.