Keighley crowd make Fiji feel at home

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The Independent Online
Fiji 52 South Africa 6

Long before full-time at Keighley, the Fijians were honorary Cougars, writes Dave Hadfield. It always was a marriage made in fixture-planners' heaven; the most excitable neutral crowd of the World Cup watching what are traditionally some of the most exciting rugby players in the world. No wonder that the small Yorkshire town warmed to them in a very big way.

Fiji produced their full repertoire of extravagant handling movements - a style of play that knows no fear, physical or technical. They began with two tries in the first eight minutes from Waisale Sovatabua and Noa Nadruku.

South Africa were a very different proposition. They may be the biggest side man for man in the tournament, but their development is still strictly at the head-down-charge stage.

By keeping the game tight in the middle of Cougar Park, however, they managed to stay in touch for most of the first half, three penalties from their full-back, Pierre Van Wyk, bringing them within four points. There was even a moment when they could have taken the lead, their captain, Jaco Booysen, making a powerful break but finding no one in support. Fiji then took the ball to the other end of the field through myriad pairs of hands for Save Taga to score.

The second half was a case of Keighley's famous ground announcer trying manfully to negotiate the names of a series of Fijian try scorers with vocal apparatus more accustomed to the linguistic complexities of Simon Irving and Nick Pinkney.

Fili Seru, the possessor of the finest sidestep in a team where few players would deign to do anything as mundane as running in a straight line, scored two of their final total of 10 tries.

The firm favourite of a crowd brought up on local heroes like Brendan Hill was the second rower Ilie Toga. South Africa lost count of the number of players who pole-axed themselves in their efforts to stop him.

FIJI: Sovatabua (Carpenters Motors Panthers); Dakuitonga, Nalagilagi (capt; both Penrith Panthers), Seru (South Queensland), Nadruku (Canberra); Nayacakalou (Penrith Panthers), Taga (Fish Nadi Dragons); Kaunivalu, Sagaitu (Lautoka), Naumbuwai (Yano Wamoon), Degei (Parramatta), I Toga (Hyundai Bulldogs), Marayawa (Tumbarumba). Substitutes: Salusalu (Lautoka) for Kumbuwai (58), Waindroa (Fish Nadi Dragons) for Kaunivalu (58), Naisoro (Lautoka) for Seru (68), Vatubua (Hyundai Bulldogs) for Sangaitu (70).

SOUTH AFRICA: Van Wyk (Eastern Reds); Coombe (Durban Sharks), Ballot (Bay of Plenty), Boshoff (Eastern Reds), Johnson (Workington); Cloete, Alkema (both Barea); Watts, Van Deventer, Booysen (capt; all Dewsbury), Williams (Durban), Fourie (Dewsbury), Alberts (Pretoria). Substitutes: Ludick (City Scorpians) for Boshoff (26), Boshoff for Ludick (40), Human (South Queensland) for Ballot (41), Ballot for Boshoff (50).

Referee: D Manson (Australia).