Fiji 25-37 Scotland: Tim Visser lives up to big expectations
SCOTLAND dragged their exhausted bodies over the line in Lautoka and it wasn’t so much a sigh of relief that greeted the final whistle as rasping, gasping gulps of gratitude that the match was finished just before the Scottish players were.
Tries: Domolailai, Nayacalevu, Talebula
Conversions: Ralulu (2)
Penalties: Ralulu (2)
Tries: Laidlaw, penalty try, Visser (2)
Conversions: Laidlaw (3)
Penalties: Laidlaw (3)
Tim Visser lived up to all the pre-match hype and then some. The big Dutchman scored two crucial tries, one at the end of each half and, if his first, was a reasonably straightforward run to the corner, the second may not have been scored by any other Scottish player. It took Visser’s unique combination of speed and strength to make it to the line after Nick De Luca latched on to Greig Laidlaw’s high ball.
The start, though, was just what Fiji wanted, with two early penalties as the Scots seemed determined to match their hosts by throwing the ball about like it was an end-of-season sevens. Several turnovers and numerous loose passes saw the Scots forced to concede penalties under the pressure they had brought upon themselves.
But they brushed off the bad start and eventually worked their way into the Fijian red zone, where Visser and Al Kellock combined deftly on the left flank before Laidlaw, acting as scrum-half at an attacking ruck, struck from his favourite length of about six inches out. It was a memorable afternoon for the Borders half-back, who finished with 22 points after adding four conversions and three penalties to his try.
With Scotland leading 27-11 early in the second half, the game looked all over bar the shouting but Fiji had other ideas. The islanders played some superb attacking rugby, brilliantly marshalled by Nikola Matawalu. The scrum-half is a sevens expert and it showed as he led the Scots a merry dance and the end result might have been different had a late injury not taken him from the field. The Scottish players paid tribute to him at the after-match dinner by nominating him as their man of the match.
Two converted tries, by Waisea Nayacalevu and Metuisela Talebula brought the Fijians within two points and got the crowd out of their seats.
The Scots held out and scored another ten points in the final few minutes but not without a few anxious moments along the way as Laidlaw conceded.
He said: “I was a little bit nervous when they made it a two-point game. Especially when you feel like they can score tries from anywhere on the field.”
There was a certain irony that, despite Scotland coach Andy Robinson picking a back-line specifically designed to attack with ball in hand, Visser’s decisive try five minutes from time came from that staple of Scottish rugby – the up and under.
“Nick [De Luca] got there and I thought he’d knocked on,” admitted Laidlaw, “but we had a penalty advantage coming our way and we’d started coughing up a little bit of ball. We were getting tired, lacking concentration. It was a free ball so I just stuck it in the air to see what happened.”
“It was a good performance, almost getting to the complete performance, but we just slipped off a couple of tackles and that is something that we need to tighten up.
“We only had a two-point lead and you don’t want to give Fiji a sniff but we came back strongly at the end.
“I think we are getting there in attack. The guys ran some great lines today. Nick De Luca chucked a lovely pass for Tim [Visser] to score in the corner.
“We had a cutting edge in attack. We have been practising a lot in training and it’s starting to come together.”
It needs to come together, and quickly, if this squad wants to write their place in the history books as the first Scottish side to return from the Southern Hemisphere with three Test wins when they face Samoa on Saturday.
Fiji: Koniferedi (Talebula 59 min), Nayacalevu, Goneva, Buto (Ratuvou 57 min), Votu; Ralulu, Matawalu; Yanuyanutawa, Veikoso (Daveta 57 min), Somoca, Naikatini, Nakarawa, Ratuva, Ravulo (Domolailai 21 min), Talei.
Scotland: Hogg, Evans (Lamont 63 min), De Luca, Scott, Visser; Laidlaw (Weir 77 min), Blair (Cusiter 55 min); Grant, Ford (Lawson 75 min), Murray (Cross 67 min), Gray (Ryder 78 min), Kellock, Strokosch, Rennie, Barclay (Vernon 57 min).
Referee: J Peyper (SA)
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Friday 24 May 2013
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