Top teams clash in Digicel Cup opener
02 March, 2011
|Temesia Roko. |
The script could not have been written any better for the start of the 2011 Digicel Cup season as last season’s top teams - champions Naitasiri and runners-up Nadroga - clash in the opening game this Friday at Ratu Cakobau Park.
Many local rugby pundits would claim there’s arguably no bigger fixture in local rugby than a Naitasiri-Nadroga game.
In the corresponding fixture last year it was Naitasiri who scraped through with a 15-12 win after the teams had been tied 7-all at half-time at Lawaqa Park. In the end the only difference was an Amani Bosenawai penalty with tries from Nadroga’s Rupeni Nasiga and Mesulame Soga and a Jonetani Ralulu penalty being matched by tries from Naitasiri’s Vesi Rarawa and Waisale Vatuvoka and a Temesia Roko conversion.
From all the above scorers only Roko survives to renew acquaintances with the old foe.
With a number of players from both sides involved in the Pacific Rugby Cup in New Zealand and Australia there‘s a distinctly unfamiliar look to the two team line-ups.
Naitasiri though do have a distinctly familiar name in their line-up with number eight Dale Tonawai switching from Suva to Naitasiri for the new season in order to line-up against his home province.
Tonawai’s defection to Naitasiri follows an increasing trend for Nadroga players who have chosen to ply their trade for the Highlanders. Most prominent of those players in recent seasons have been Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, Kolinio Vunaki and Sanaila Vitau.
Meanwhile Naitasiri lad Seremaia Naureure continues to buck the trend. The former hooker being named at prop for the first time for Nadroga and he’ll be up against elder brother and Naitasiri captain Apisai Rinamalo who’s been named at lock for the hosts.
Veteran utility back Jonetani Ratu returns to the fold to lead Nadroga on Friday and he along with Naureure and a benched Seveci Taka are the only survivors from last season’s opening fixture against the defending champions.
In the locking department yet another Domolailai emerges, this time it’s Apisai Domolailai who follows in the footsteps of his cousins Isoa and Jovilisi who were both renowned locks for Nadroga. No doubt Apisai will want to continue the family tradition and follow Isoa and Jovilisi all the way into the national team.
In the U20 fixture there’ll be an international flavor of sorts with top Japanese referee Taizo Hirabaiyazi scheduled to control the game. Hirabaiyazi is in the country with the Japan 7s team who are taking part in the Marist 7s.
The Naitasiri-Nadroga fixture kicks off at 6:00 PM this Friday at Ratu Cakobau Park with the U20 fixture kicking proceedings off at 4:00 PM. NAITASIRI
1. Samu Kata, 2. Jerry Tokamalua, 3. Joeli Veitayaki, 4. Saviriano Kalounivale, 5. Apisai Rinamalo (c), 6. Inoke Tuisese, 7. Jese Cirikisuva, 8. Dale Tonawai, 9. Nemani Vecenayawa, 10. Samu Vunaki, 11. Sanaila Vitau, 12. Waisale Levula, 13. John Stewart, 14. Sitiveni Vatuvoka, 15. Temesia Roko Reserves:
16. Samu Sauturaga, 17. Sireli Temo, 18. Senivalati Vunibola, 19. Nikolai Baleitamavua, 20. Noa Sisiwa, 21. Eremodo Elesio, 22. Apisai Naqalima/Iliesa Matanisiga NADROGA
1. Seremaia Naureure, 2. Ratu Seru Cakobau, 3. Jone Vinaiwere, 4. Apisai Domolailai, 5. Inia Tukere, 6. Eroni Tasere, 7. Jone Qorovakatini, 8. Manoa Tamaya, 9. Samu Laqai, 10. Jonetani Ratu (c), 11. Sakiusa Navaka, 12. Epeli Qativi, 13. Sakiusa Gavidi, 14. Nemani Naitoni, 15. Jonetani Nasia Reserves:
16. Pauliasi Kuruiciri, 17. Eneri Lotawa, 18. Iosefo Rasese, 19. Isei Vuicuvu, 20. Seveci Taka, 21. Kalivati Tauvoli, 22. Aporosa Tabulawaki Referee: James Bolabiu