Who will reign – Deans and IDC trophies up for grabs

Rajnesh Lingam with Labasa goal keeper Simione Tamanisau who is expected to play a key role in the IDC tournament. Picture: SUPPLIED

With bated breath, fans will witness rugby action from today’s Deans quarters and Rugby Championship. In the Deans quarters, the rivalry between schools will be brought out as favourites RKS and QVS will aim to make a statement at the HFC Bank Stadium, which hosted the match between the Fijiana and Canada last evening. This evening, the rivalry between the All Blacks and Wallabies will thrill as the Wallabies will aim for revenge, and the All Blacks will aim for a bonus point win to extinguish South African hopes. It has boiled down to the last match and this is what makes the Rugby Championship so unpredictable.

Bledisloe Cup woes continue for Wallabies

The Wallabies came so close to winning Test one of the Bledisloe Cup series, but a refereeing decision turned their historic 37-34 lead into a heartbreaking 39-37 defeat. The result denied them the prestigious Bledisloe Cup and sent the men in green and gold to their worst ninthplace ranking. The All Blacks led 10-0, thanks to a try by Samisoni Taukei’aho and Richie Mo’unga’s penalty. Rob Valetini scored a sizzler and Bernard Foley’s penalty squared it up 10- 10, but Tom Wright and Darcy Swain copped a yellow card. Within three minutes into the second half, Taukei’aho crashed over the try-line to make it 17-10, but Foley reduced the deficit with a penalty to make it 17-13. The All Blacks scored two tries to Mo’unga and Will Jordan made it 31-13. Andrew Kellaway and Pete Samu brought the Wallabies to within striking distance, and both sides were locked 34-all. Nic White stepped up to kick a penalty to put the Wallabies ahead for the first time, and with possession in hand, the hosts gifted the All Blacks a scrum as Foley was penalised for time wasting. Jordie Barrett dived over. The All Blacks celebrated, having defended the Cup. The Wallabies were left to rue Foley’s decision, suffering another heartbreak. Springboks upset Pumas at home A late Malcolm Marx try secured a bonuspoint Rugby Championship win to keep the Springboks in the title hunt. Victory for the Springboks in Argentina put them on 14 points in the Rugby Championship table, level with the All Blacks ahead of the final round of games this weekend. South Africa finishes their campaign by facing Argentina at home, while the All Blacks will host the Wallabies. South Africa’s scores came via a penalty try, one each for Jaden Hendrikse and Damian de Allende, and two for Marx. South Africa dominated the first half with their power-game and led 22-6 at the break, but they were given a scare in the second period, when Argentina roared back in the final 15 minutes and took the score to 22-20 before the visitors pulled away once more. The home side was also awarded a penalty try to go with a score for Matias Moroni. Argentina came out for the second half with more fire in their belly and although it took them 25 minutes to put points on the board, they had the Boks scrambling in defence and were for a while the dominant team. However, in the last 10 minutes the Boks found their composure as well as further scores by De Allende and a second for Marx that earned the bonus point, sealed the win and keeps the pressure on the defending champions, the All Blacks, in the competition.

Lions drawn in tough IDC pool

Defending Courts Inter-District Champions Labasa has been drawn in a tough pool. The Babasiga Lions, which recently won the Punjas Battle of the Giants tournament, will face Rewa, which won the DPL and represented Fiji in the O-League playoffs and Western giants Lautoka and Ba in Pool B. Suva leads Pool A and will face the impressive Nadi side and underdogs Nadroga and Navua. This year’s Courts IDC will be played at the HFC Bank Stadium from 5-10 October. Fans are in for a treat and they should expect nothing less than a thrilling atmosphere as teams’ battle out for the Holy Grail. Apart from the Super Premier division, six teams each will participate in the Premier and Senior divisions. In Pool A in the Premier division Tailevu Naitasiri, Tavua and Nadogo will go headto-head, while Nasinu, Rakiraki and Seaqaqa will clash in Pool B. In the Senior division in Pool A, Bua meets Savusavu and Lami, while Dreketi leads Pool B with Taveuni and Northland Tailevu. Labasa is the defending champion, having won the tournament in 2020, beating Lautoka 2-1. A classic Ratu Anare header was enough to see Labasa retain the Courts IDC title. Both teams were locked 0-0 at the break. Zibraaz Sahib gave Lautoka the lead from the penalty spot after Akuila Mateisuva fouled Dave Radrigai in the box. Labasa equalised through Ilisoni Lolaivalu before Ratu Anare headed in the winner. It was the first time that Labasa had successfully defended the IDC title. The 2020 IDC final was the first time in 47 years that Labasa and Lautoka played in the final with Lautoka winning the last battle in 1973. In 2019, the Lions defeated Suva 1-0 in extra time at Prince Charles Park in Nadi. Solomon Islander Dennis Ifunaoa, who came on as a substitute, was the Lions’ star as he scored the winner in the first minute of the extra 30- minute spell.

Fiji Bati ready to rumble

The Fiji Bati side is ready to rumble at the Rugby League World Cup, but it’s a pity the side has been hit hard with injuries to key players like Kane Evans, Jo Lovodua, Marcelo Montoya, Tariq Sims and Daniel Saifiti. Head coach Jo Rabele awaits confirmation from Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Korbin Sims as he gets the Fiji Bati ready to take on the world’s best rugby league players. The Fiji Bati will be tested when the boys meet defending champions, Australia. The task of defeating the Aussies will be a difficult one. Our boys have had a sensational season so far and their togetherness will be our strength.

Stage set for national quarters

Now that the various zonal play-offs have been completed, focus turns to the national quarterfinals that will be played at the HFC Bank Stadium. Fans will witness four blockbusting matches in the Capital City. After beating Nasinu Secondary School 13-5, Suva Grammar School will take on Lelean Memorial School, while Nasinu Secondary faces Ba Provincial Freebird Institute. Tailevu giants RKS will play Marist Brothers High School, while QVS will meet Natabua High School. Suva Grammar won the Southern Zone. RKS won the Eastern Zone, while Ba Provincial won the Western Zone so we can expect a bumper crowd at the Stadium when the quarters will be played. Today’s battles are going to be hard, but enterprising.

Appreciation for Marayawa’s work

He spent a little time with the trusted brand, but Filipe Tuimasi Marayawa earned accolades for his delicious pieces that featured in the sports section. Having rubbed shoulders with the likes of Maikeli Seru, Rodney Duthie, Waisale Koroiwasa and Rohit Deo, Marayawa gained valuable experience writing sports stories. He felt rocky at first, but embarked on a journey that made him meet sports personalities and cover sports events. His memorable experiences include covering the Drua’s first year in Super Rugby Pacific, the Skipper Cup and Inkk Farebrother Sullivan Trophy and Coca-Cola Games. Marayawa’s dad passed away in 2012 and he was raised by mom Miriama Rosova. He attended Vanuakula Catholic Mission School, Nadroumai Primary and Marist Brothers High School. He played for Marist and Suva U-20. He found it an honour working for The Fiji Times and was glad that he was given an opportunity to write sports stories. His hard work and passion was rewarded when he met Joe Rokocoko, Israel Folau, Charles Piutau and Malakai Fekitoa. His colleagues and workmates, especially Shreya Kumar, miss him deeply. Vinaka vakalevu Marayawa for the wonderful stories that added glamour to the sports pages!

• RAJNESH LINGAM is a regular contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are the author’s and do not reflect the views of this newspaper.

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