Three tries to left wing Sevu Reece yesterday provided the impetus the All Blacks needed to overcome a shaky start and chalk up a 60-13 victory over Fiji in another bruising encounter in Hamilton.
The All Blacks, who needed to step up after an unconvincing performance for much of the first Test last week, were clinging to a 7-6 lead after 30 minutes, but by the final whistle had outscored Fiji by nine tries to one.
With their bone-crunching tackles and relentless driving forward play, the determined Fijians again rattled the New Zealanders in the opening exchanges until the explosive closing 10 minutes of the first half, when the All Blacks rammed home a match-defining 22 points.
Coach Ian Foster said the All Blacks performance was a step up from the first Test, but there was still room for improvement.
“We weren’t as clinical as we wanted to be in the early things, but maybe we just got excited,” he said.
“I think in that first 20 [minutes] we had about seven turnovers against us for various reasons, but then we calmed down and really played some good, clinical, rugby,” he added.
Fiji coach Vern Cotter blamed ill-discipline for his side dropping off the pace.
“By the 35th minute, we had five penalties against us for offsides and ruck offenses, so we made it hard for ourselves,” he said.
“When we did compete, we competed well so the analysis from the game is really simple: Just take away the rubbish that we gave the opposition team and just believe in what we can construct,” he added.
Reece reveled in the shift from the right wing to the left — to accommodate Will Jordan in the All Blacks backline — and scored his triple in the first half, with a fourth try before the break coming from Ardie Savea who provided a physical edge on his return from injury.
Jordan scored immediately after halftime, and as New Zealand emptied the bench, replacements Rieko Ioane, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Shannon Frizell added tries with Taukei’aho claiming a double on debut.
Prop Ravai Peni scored Fiji’s sole try.
Savea and Sam Whitelock added steel to the All Blacks pack while inside backs Richie Mo’unga and David Havili kept the attack straight, which were two areas where coach Ian Foster had demanded improvement.
Despite the 47-point margin, there remained questions about the All Blacks and in particular the way they appeared flustered in the opening stanza.
From the moment Brive center Riko Buliruarua barreled through the All Blacks backline in the second minute, Fiji had the All Blacks scrambling.
They won a breakdown penalty under the posts and Ben Volavola put the first points on the board.
A succession of penalties helped the All Blacks forge their way to the Fiji 22, where Havili ran a perfect line off line-out ball and put Reece in for his first try — only for Fiji to reply immediately with another Volavola penalty.
Twice the All Blacks turned down kickable penalties in favor of a line-out and twice the ploy failed.
When a third opportunity arose, they conceded there was no easy way through the Fijian defense and Mo’unga landed the three-pointer which opened the floodgates.
From the restart, a booming clearing kick from Havili was knocked on by Kini Murimurivalu on the Fiji 22, and from the resulting scrum Mo’unga ran blind, putting Reece over for his second try and the contest was as good as finished.
AUSTRALIA V FRANCE
AFP, BRISBANE, Australia
Fourteen-man Australia yesterday edged France 33-30 to win a thrilling third Test and take the series 2-1 in Brisbane.
Australian flyhalf Noah Lolesio kicked a crucial penalty to put the Wallabies ahead with two minutes remaining.
The win came against the odds after the Wallabies lost winger Marika Koroibete to a controversial red card following a high tackle on French captain Anthony Jelonch in the fifth minute.
Australia won the first Test 23-21, with France claiming the second 28-26.
SAMOA V TONGA
AFP, HAMILTON, New Zealand
Samoa yesterday confirmed their place in the 2023 World Cup in France with a comfortable 37-15 victory over Tonga in Hamilton to sweep their two-leg Oceania qualifying series.
They will go into Pool D alongside England, Japan, Argentina and the Americas 2 qualifier. After losing the first game 42-13, Tonga needed to win by 29 points to take the series on aggregate.
The first half proved expensive for Tonga with three forwards leaving the field injured, while sporadic showers sweeping the ground led to handling errors and a misfiring line-out.
By halftime, Samoa enjoyed a 20-3 at the turn, including an opening try from a line-out steal, and when a spirited Tongan revival narrowed the gap to 23-15 in the second half, Samoa pulled away with two late tries.
For Samoa, tries were scored by Ed Fidow, Jonathan Taumateine, Stacey Ili and Kalolo Tuiloma.
Henry Taefu landed all four conversions plus three penalties, including one from 48m, for a match haul of 15 points to go with the 20 he scored in the first game.
Tonga scored first with an early penalty to James Faiva and added tries in the second half to Jay Fonokalafi and Sione Tuipulotu with Faiva kicking one conversion.
The team has a further opportunity to make the next World Cup with a match against the Cook Islands next weekend for the right to compete in the Asia-Pacific playoff.
For Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin, there were no chances left: Either beat the world’s top-ranked men’s doubles badminton team from Indonesia for the first time or see their Olympic hopes dashed in the preliminary round. The world No. 3 Taiwanese duo answered the challenge, edging past Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in their final Group A match 21-18, 15-21, 21-17 to qualify for the final eight knockout round. “We finally made it,” Lee wrote on Facebook after beating the Indonesian duo. However, he said that the competition still had a long way to go. “We’re happy not only because
TWO AND TWO: Lin Chen-hao of Taiwan finished seventh in the women’s U-48kg category, winning two bouts before losses the quarter-finals and a repechage match Naohisa Takato yesterday won Japan’s first gold medal at their home Olympics, beating Taiwan’s Yang Yung-wei in the men’s under-60kg judo final. Yang’s second-place finish is Taiwan’s first medal in Tokyo and the nation’s first-ever medal in an Olympics judo competition. Kosovo’s Distria Krasniqi beat Japan’s Funa Tonaki in the women’s under-48kg final less than an hour before Takato made sure that his team would not have a double heartbreak on the opening day of competition in its beloved homegrown martial art. Takato won his final three bouts in sudden-death golden score, but he took the final a bit anticlimactically after Yang committed
Taiwanese badminton player Tai Tzu-ying yesterday tried to coast through her second group match at the Olympic Games, but got a bit of a scare against a Vietnamese ranked 49th in the world before righting the ship and prevailing. World No. 1 Tai defeated Nguyen Thuy Linh 21-16, 21-11 in her second match in Group P, moving her one win away from a spot in the women’s singles quarter-finals. Playing somewhat nonchalantly at the start of the match, Tai could not shake off the consistent Vietnamese, making several unforced errors. Down 16-14 and in danger of letting the first game get away, Tai
CLOSE CALL: In what was almost an upset, Brian Yang kept Chou Tien-chen on his toes for more than an hour, but the world No. 3 managed to hold on for the win Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying yesterday reminded the world why she is No. 1 when she had France’s Qi Xuefei struggling to match up through their 25-minute encounter. Tai, who beat Qi 21-10, 21-13, had a rough start to the Tokyo Olympics, taking longer to fend off two hugely inferior opponents earlier in the Games. The 27-year-old has a history of slipping up at the Olympics, despite performing exceptionally in other competitions. Tai, who became world No. 1 in 2016, has won the All England Open title three times and was a gold medalist at the 2018 Asian Games. “This is the first time I