|Gabiriele Lovobalavu was Fiji's outstanding player in the French Top 14. |
Toulouse, last Saturday, became champions of France for the 18th time when they beat Montpellier 15-10. Reflecting on the season as a whole, this was not a classic. The Toulousians dominated the season for the most part, with only Racing Metro offering any serious challenge. Rupeni Caucau signed for Toulouse as a 'medical joker' and rediscovered some of his old form, scoring tries that only he could score.
The Racing Metro challenge was led by Sireli Bobo and his eight tries, backed up by Jone Qovu and Albert Vulivuli. The later will be responsible in the coming year in the development of Josh Matavesi and a certain Virimi Vakatawa, a 19 year old prodigy, as they attempt to break into the first team. Murimurivalu has achieved this, following the departure of Nalaga, at ASM Clermont, showing what makes him such an exciting prospect.
For Toulon and Lovobalavu, it was a case of what might have been, despite the squad assembled there. They threatened in both the league and 'H' Cup but could not make it count.
Elsewhere Seremaia Bai, for Castres, played in every game, starting 24 out of 27 in the championship. Norman Ligari's and Seru Rabeni's encounter with the Top 14 was shorted lived as La Rochelle were relegated. Saimoni Vaka at Agen settled in with six tries for the season. Next year he will be joined by Osea Kolinisau. At Biarritz another Fijian and Digicel Fiji 7s powerhouse, Seremaia Buroto, will be joining Ilikena Bolakoro.
But perhaps the surprise package of the 2010/11 season was Montpellier guided by the coaching expertise of Messers Galthie and Béchu. They started the season with a bang, faded during the winter, and then a strong run-in saw them to their first ever final.
Timoci Nagusa's tries, 12 in all including the one last Saturday, and the establishment of Sakiusa Matadigo as first choice No. 8 were important factors in this.
So to the "Palm" awards for 2010/11 in the Top 14, my selection of the best Fijians this season. Masi Matadigo and Timoci Nagusa share the bronze "Palm" for their efforts at Montpellier. Sireli Bobo just pips them to take silver. I have, however, little hesitation as to who should receive the "Palm D'Or; Gabirieli Lovobalavu, for an outstanding season.
If there was a style prize, there would only be one candidate, Timoci Nagusa for his orange hair last Saturday.
A quick look across the Channel, where Michael Tagicakibau's Saracens saw off Leicester in the English cup-final.
A mixed season for other Fijians there.
At Exeter Sireli Naqelevuki confirmed himself as a 'Chief', but that was not the case for Nemani Nadolo, whose European sejourn lasted just 9 months. Perhaps he should seek advice from Nacewa, 'H' cup winner with Leinster, Irish player of the year, and two tries against Wales for the 'Ba-Bas' on Saturday. A model club professional, even if he’s still struggling with country obligations.
Akapusi Qera saw Gloucester win silverware in the Anglo-Welsh Cup. At Sale, Wame Lewaravu survived the Sharks clean-out, where Sisa Koyamibole was already heading for France. Deacon Manu, after captaining the national team on the November tour, saw his season cut short by a broken arm in December.
So between now and the start of the 2011/2012 campaign, many of those mentioned already will be preparing for the RWC. I wish them good luck and hope to see them in action on their return to Europe, along with the other 'Flying Fijians' who will be here when the new season kicks off.
Would just like to wish the Baby Fijians the Fiji U20 side the very best of luck in Italy as they being their Junior World Championship campaign, where the hardest part seems to have been just getting there.
Moce mada. Marc@Rugbymarc