Canada Wolverines vs Fiji Bati Match Report
Talking to many Rugby League experts before this game it was obvious that nobody thought it would be possible for Canada to win this game, in fact most thought if Canada were able to keep Fiji under 50 points it would be a decent performance!
This was the Canada Wolverines biggest game in their short history and they started off nervously by failing to complete any of their sets with the ball. They were actually dropping the ball on the first couple of tackles in each set and Fiji must be credited for their fast line speed which put the Wolverines under pressure.
Fiji scored an early try when they put through a short grubber kick into the ingoal area and experienced Wolverine Full Back Robin Legault decided to take the risk of watching it go over the dead ball line. However, the speedy Fijians were very quick to pounce on the ball in a dead heat with the dead ball line, which the referee awarded the try! This seemed to dent the Wolverine’s confidence and another couple of tries out wide to the speedy Fijian’s had the score 14-0 before a very controversial try was awarded from another kick where the ball was clearly knocked on by the Fijian’s but the referee allowed them to play on as they raced away to score under the posts for an important six points. This decision seemed to stir the Wolverine’s into action and suddenly they were able to put pressure on the Fijian’s close to the try line. Clever hooker Jack Couzens was willing to try his luck from dummy half and threw a dummy pass before burrowing over for a try to finally put the Canada team on the scoreboard. Barak Pauls converted and when half time arrived the scoreline was 20-6 in favour of the Fiji team. Considering the amount of ball the Fijian’s had in the first half due to all the dropped ball by the Canada team, it was a credit to the Wolverines defence to keep the scoreline so close.
Canada Coach Aaron Zimmerle made a few positional changes and the Wolverines came out fired up in the 2nd half. Their defence was strong in the first half but it certainly stepped up a notch in the 2nd half with plenty of big hits. They were put under pressure on many occasions but some tough defence saved the day. Two try saving tackles were memorable by their backs Robin Legault & Jeff Lohse who stood up to the Fijian big forwards when tries looked to be almost certain! It was after this great defence that a kick was put through by the Fijian’s and a weird decision given in their favour for a try! The Fijian chaser ran through and slapped at the ball instead of diving on it. He bounced the ball like a “basketball player” and when the try decision was given it absolutely puzzled everyone at the Stadium! This try was converted and many thought the flood gates might open over the last 30 minutes but it was the absolute opposite. Canada started enjoying having some ball and were completing their sets to move up the field. They put the Fijian’s under a lot of pressure until the best Wolverine forward on the field, Joel Hulett, went on another strong run to score, after an offload from prop Alec Douglas. Barak Pauls converted the try and a scoreline of 26-12 was giving a better indication of how the 2nd half had been played. The pressure the Wolverines were putting the Fijian’s under was starting to take its toll on the match favourites and some undisciplined plays from them resulted in a few consecutive penalties going to Canada which enabled the Wolverines to really apply pressure. The Fijian’s were able to defend their line with pride while Canada kept hammering away with a variety of kicks but they were not lucky with the bounce of the ball. The game finished with the Wolverine’s forwards taking control over the tiring Fijian big men and Sean McInroy was dominant for the Wolverines in the 2nd half. Despite the scoreline being 26-12 a fairer indication of the game would have been even closer especially after the lucky 12 points from two questionable try decisions. Over the 80 minutes the Fiji Bati team deserved their win but one can only wonder what could have been if the Wolverines were calmer in the first half and not dropped so much ball. The 2nd half performance of the Canada Wolverines was the best they have ever produced in their short history. Coach Zimmerle was full of praise for his players and the courage they showed to never stop working for each other in defence. This was a very proud day for Canada Wolverine fans!
Richard Fiu (No 5) 2 tries
Mitieli Koro (No 7) 2 tries
Pio Seci (No 4) 1 try
Simon Wise (No 2) 3 Conversions
Jack Couzens (No 9) 1 try
Joel Hulett (No 12) 1 try
Barak Pauls (No 7) 2 conversions.