BARLA Lions 16
Fiji Bati Residents 32
By Dave Parkinson
The BARLA Lions went above and beyond in their final tour game as they took on the Fiji Bati Residents in the final game of the international tri-series. In an exemplary display of control, they kept their heads and more importantly their discipline, despite the Bati's best attempts to knock them off their game.
Head Coach Gary Hewer was fulsome in his praise. "It's easily my proudest moment on tour. The team were subjected to some things that shouldn't happen to rugby league players, and kept their heads."
Hewer took the unusual step of seeking an audience with the match referee at half-time as the game took a nasty turn with allegations of biting and spitting on members of his side.
"My team gave everything they had and I backed them a hundred percent." Hewer said.
The fact this game took a turn for the worse is a shame. Fiji Bati Residents have some skillful players, but their conduct was not becoming of an international fixture and following a couple of send-offs in their recent game against the Australian Affiliated States, they must seriously consider how they play the game moving forward, particularly in light of them wanting to enter a team in Australia's NSW Cup.
One of the worst driving tackles seen by any member of the Lions party brought the game to a close. Lee Postlethwaite (Millom) tipped up and driven to the ground in dangerous fashion. Had this happened on the street, it was tantamount to assault.
Hewer tried to control the situation, especially when Ilai Nareki, the culprit of the challenge sat on the bench after being dismissed.
The tourists conceded a try within two minutes of the opening when the ball was kicked high by Penioni Tagituimua and then worked out to the right by Wame Turagsnivalu for powerful wing Maci Kalou to swoop. Exciting halfback Timoci Namotokula goaled, but the Lions hit straight back after 16 minutes when Craig Savage (Lock Lane) kicked ahead, Kalou fumbled and Sam Jones (Barrow Island) instinctively passed inside for Jordan Gibson (Haydock) to score in the corner. Skipper Jamie Fields (Hunslet Club Parkside) couldn't convert, but it was 6-4.
The Lions tackled superbly, denying Turagsnivalu and a host of other attackers. Tom Hopkins (Askam) took the battle to Fiji with a series of strong runs but Fiji enjoyed more possession and this eventually told on the scoreboard after 27 minutes as Josua Rokonavutoro broke the line and Melbourne Storm linked Isimeli Vatanitawake ran to the posts.
Tagituimua goaled and the Bati led 12-4.
Fiji Bati Residents then scored two tries in three minutes. The first went to Nadi's own Josua Rokonavutoro after he chased through and pounced on a kick that took a wicked bounce away from the Lions defence. Namotokula converted before touching down in the left corner after quick thinking by Ilai Nareki. The Residents led 22-4
The game threatened to boil over with the Lions bringing several incidents to the attention of the match officials before the half-time hooter and their restraint was admirable.
Into the second half and BARLA drew first blood with a fine try after Roseru Nawasetawa was sinbinned for holding down Andy Hullock (Hunslet Club Parkside). Long passing brought Gibson into play again, and he skipped through the defence. Fields goal made it 22-10.
Fiji responded with a break through the middle of the defence and Roger Qoro skipped to the posts. Tagituimua goaled to make it 28-10 to the hosts.
With their free-flowing offloads, Fiji Bati Residents struck again with Tagituimua turning try scorer, although surprisingly Vatanitawake missed the conversion.
The Lions stuck to their principles and added a third try with ten minutes remaining - Marcus O'Brien (Egremont) finishing a sparkling break from Declan Sheridan (Rochdale Mayfield). Fields goaled to make it 32-16.
BARLA upped their tempo and Fiji responded with some indiscipline. Namotakula was sinbinned before INareki was sent off. The challenge left Postlethwaite (Millom) nursing a broken shoulder which requires further attention.
12 Ian Jackson (Featherstone Lions)
1 Ryan Chalkley (Shaw Cross Sharks)
21 Reece Rushworth (York Acorn
5 Jordan Gibson (Haydock)
14 Sam Jones (Barrow Island)
24 Mark Tyson (Askam)
13 Jack Jones (Thatto Heath)
3 Jamie Fields (Hunslet Club Parkside) (c)
20 Craig Savage (Castleford Lock Lane)
19 Johnny Goulding (Cockermouth Titans
23 Luke Tagg (Castleford Lock Lane)
9 Tom Hopkins (Askam)
17 Marcus O'Brien (Egremont)
Subs (All Used)
2 Jack Clark (Cockermouth Titans)
4 Dean Gamble (Featherstone Lions)
6 Aidy Gleeson (Rochdale Mayfield)
7 Matt Hensen (Egremont Rangers)
10 Jack Howdle (Beverley)
11 Andy Hullock (Hunslet Club Parkside)
16 Andy Lea (Thatto Heath)
18 Lee Postlethwaite (Millom)
22 Declan Sheridan (Rochdale Mayfield)
Tries: Gibson (16, 48), O'Brien (70).
Goals: Fields 2/3.
FIJI BATI RESIDENTS
1 Vereti Bukavesi
2 Maciu Kalou
3 Ilai Nareki
4 Wame Turagsnivalu
5 Isimeli Vatanitawake
6 Roger Qoro
7 Timoci Namotokula
8 Apakuki Tavodi (V/Capt)
9 Penioni Tagituimua
10 Philip Shaw
11 Ilisavani Jegesa
12 Rusiate Ratu
13 Richard Fiu (Captain)
Subs: (All used)
14 Roseru Nawasetawa
15 Josua Rokonavutoro
16 Maika Serulevu
17 Semi Kabakaba
18 Ilaitia Volavola
20 Apolosi Tuiloma
Tries: Kalou (2), Vataniawake (27) Rokonavuturo (34) Namotokula (36),
Goals: Namotokula 2/3, Tagituimua 2/2, Vatanitawake 0/1.
Sinbinned: Roseru Nawasetawa (48 - holding down), Timoci Namotokula (64 - persistent offences)
Dismissed: Ilai Nareki (78 - dangerous tackle)