FIJI'S TOUR of England and Scotland is not exactly triumphant (six wins out of eight) but a victory over Leicester is a considerable scalp, even though the Tigers were shorn of all but three of their regular first teamers. Fiji also showed some admirable steel in defence in the final quarter, as well as being far more willing to try an expansive game on a bitterly cold night at Welford Road. Leicester may rue that they lost this match through their own lack of adventure.
Fiji had the better of the opening exchanges with their stand-off Opeti Turuva showing both power and precision in his touch-kicking. It was Turuva who opened the scoring with a towering 35-yard drop goal after three minutes, although he attempted and failed to repeat the trick far too often in the second half.
For the next 20 minutes the Fijians showed glimpses of their traditional, carefree game and could have scored two tries but for errors.
But some spirit seemed to be sapped from the Fijians when Leicester broke their domination with an opportunistic try. This time Leon Lloyd skipped his markers, fed winger Michael Horak who flipped the ball inside for the lock Fritz van Heerden to bump his way over.
For the rest of the half, the Leicester pack managed to impose a little more order on the game and further stifled the Fijians. This did not make for much of a festival atmosphere but it was calculatingly professional and a Geordan Murphy penalty (after Joel Stransky left the field injured) was enough to give them a 10-3 lead at half-time.
This pattern looked set to continue early in the second period until Lasagavibau finally got his co-ordination right, seizing on a loose ball to sprint clear in the corner. Then Fiji scored a try after a rolling maul in which they worked the ball fully 20 yards before lock Apenisa Naevo dropped over the line.
The indignity of this breathed some life into the Tigers and they threw everything they could muster at Fiji for the final 15 minutes. But Fiji's defence stood heroically firm.
Leicester: Try Van Heerden; Conversion Stransky; Penalties Murphy 3. Fiji: Tries Lasagavibau, Naevo, Tikomaimakoghi; Conversions Turuva 2; Drop goal Turuva.
Leicester: G Murphy; C Joiner, P Howard (D Lougheed, 64), L Lloyd, M Horak; J Stransky (J Stewart, 33), J Hamilton; D Jelley (P Freshwater, 68), D West, H Toews, N Fletcher, F van Heerden, O Wingham, B Smith, M Cornish.
Fiji: J Waqa; I Tikomaimakogai, V Satala, L Little, F Lasagavibau (Tuilevu, 65); O Turuva, S Rabaka; D Rouse, G Smith, J Veitayaki, S Raiwalui, A Naevo, T Butukanavula (A Naituyaga, 62), K Sewabu, A Naituyaga.
Referee: C White.