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Fiji loses to Tahiti, finishes fourth
The Fiji men’s football side recorded one its worst result ever in the Pacific Games after finishing the competition on fourth spot and going down to Tahiti 2-1 in the bronze medal playoff this afternoon.

The Gurjit Singh coached side were stunned with a early Tahiti goal and failed to click in all aspects of the match.

The return of Roy Krishna and Taniela Waqa from suspension did not make much of a difference as Tahiti played with more coordination and passion.

The Tahitians opened their account in the 5th minute through Stanley Atani who neatly beat the Fijian defence and goalie Benaminio Mateinaqara.

Indiscipline crept in the Fijian players which saw the dismissal of Seveci Rokotakala in the minutes before halftime.

Malakai Tiwa, Roy Krishna, Alvin Avinesh, Malakai Kanihewe and Taniela Waqa also copped yellow cards in the tensed affair.

Midfielder Avinesh leveled scores in the 58th minute after flicking in a Roy Krishna corner which deflected off the Tahitian defence.

But Jonathan Tehau dashed Fiji’s hopes of a comeback in the 65th minute after taking advantage of a defensive mistake and slotting the ball into the back of the net.

Tahiti had earlier lost to Fiji 3-0 in the group stages.

Fiji won silver medal in Apia and gold in 2003 Games in Suva.

Flying Fijians presents itatau
Seeking the nation’s blessings before the battle at the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand our Flying Fijians presented their itatau to His Excellency the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau at Government House in Suva this morning

The itatau is a traditional presentation to the chiefs before the warriors leave the country for contests on foreign soil. It is done to seek the blessings of God and the vanua for protection and success with an aim to return victorious.

“The itatau is a very simple thing,” Ratu Epeli said. “But it has very deep rooted meanings. Very emotional and I hope you all know why you have come here today,” Ratu Epeli told players and officials.

“The blessing of the vanua will always be with the team but I urge you players to make sure you give your best shot.

“Fiji will be behind you all the way and we will cheer you on. We know you can do it,” the President said.

“You have been chosen and your coming here today tells me that you have accepted the challenge and are ready to battle.”

Ratu Epeli encouraged the players not to let their armor down as he reminded them to fight till the last drop.

“Play your hearts out for Fiji. You take with you the blessings and prayers of our fathers, and forefathers,” Ratu Epeli said.

The 2011 RWC will kick-off in New Zealand on September 9 with the final for the Webb Ellis trophy on October 23 at Eden Park.

Rugby World Cup pools;
Pool A: New Zealand, France, Tonga, Canada, Japan.
Pool B: Argentina, England, Scotland, Georgia, Romania.
Pool C: Australia, Ireland, Italy, Russia, United States.
Pool D; South Africa, Wales, Fiji, Samoa, Namibia.
14-time champs keen to bounce back
14-time champion, Ba faces a tough pathway in the 2011 Battle Of Giants after losing its opener 1-0 to Nadroga on Sunday.

The Men In Black now have to register wins in their remaining Pool 1 matches at Ratu Cakobau Park in Nausori to keep their hopes to clinching the title for the 15th time alive.

The absence of star players; Tuimasi Manuca, Alvin Singh, Petero Dauniseka, Kiniviliame Naika and Roneel Kumar was heavily felt against Nadroga but the players are expected to return when the tournament kicks off proper on Thursday.

Their next match is against defending champs and host Rewa and the result of this match will decide the fate of the Josaia Bukalidi coached side.

With a loss already in the bag, a win will give them a lifeline while a draw will keep them in with a slim chance as the pool also has the likes of Labasa and Nadroga who both have three points to their names after the opening round.

Ba team manager Iliyaz Khan remains positive of a comeback in the reminder of the matches and predicts tougher competition from the remaining oppositions.

According to him, they will iron out their mistakes and will be back with a force in Nausori.

Ba which holds the record in terms of number of BOG wins, last won the title in 2009 at Churchill Park after defeating neighbours Lautoka in the final through a Osea Vakatalesau goal.

Ba plays Rewa at 9.15pm on Thursday.
Rewa's Naka, Lui in doubt for BOG
Defending champion Rewa is likely to feature in the Battle Of Giants (BOG) tournament without their star Solomon Islands imports James Naka and George Lui.

The duo who have been part of Rewa's victorious squad from last season are tied up with national commitments with Naka also nursing a knee injury.

Rewa FA President Pranil Singh says the though the two have been registered for the tournament, their availability is in doubt.

"The two players have commitment with their national team and may not be able to represent Rewa in the BOG," he said.

"They are our key players and we would have loved to have them around but at the same time we also understand their commitment and obligation to their country."

"Rewa has a very good and capable mix of players in the squad and the two players will have equally good replacements in the tournament."

"We have majority of the players from last season remaining so there should not be a problem for us in the tournament."

The inclusion of Saani Issa, Lorima Dau, Nathan Kumar and Labasa youngster Misaele Draunibaka will certainly give Coach Marika Rodu a lot of options when it comes to naming his best team for matches in the tournament.

The Delta Tigers are in a pool of death with Ba, Lautoka, Labasa and Nadroga and open their campaign against their all time rivals, the Men In Black next Thursday at Ratu Cakobau Park.
All Blacks thrash Fiji in season opener
New Zealand's All Blacks opened their rugby World Cup build-up with a lopsided 60-14 win over Fiji in Dunedin on Friday but failed to produce the dominating performance they sought.

After leading 32-0 at halftime, the All Blacks were held to only two more tries for most of the second spell, before they broke away to cross the line twice more in the closing minutes.

The shining light for the All Blacks was the performance of Colin Slade, who staked his claim to be the flyhalf understudy to Dan Carter after missing most of the Super 15 season when he twice broke his jaw.
In his first Test start, Slade posted 19 points with a try, four conversions and two penalties and steered the side around the park with confidence before he was substituted with 20 minutes to go.

But around him there were question marks over the All Blacks' performance as they struggled in the second spell against a side ranked 14th in the world and lacking several key players.

The forward domination of the first half faded as the game wore on and the decision-making was at times questionable as the All Blacks allowed themselves to be bustled by the Fijians' physical approach.The one tactic which did pay dividends was the chip kick over the Fijian backs, which provided three tries.

In a match billed as the definite farewell for the iconic Carisbrook venue after it won reprieves following three previous Tests also billed as the last, Slade received an early confidence boost with a penalty in the third minute.

Sitiveni Sivivatu, another player under the microscope, followed with the first try when the All Blacks moved the ball wide after sucking in the Fijian defence with a series of pick-and-goes.
Ma'a Nonu of the All Blacks.

Ma'a Nonu of the All Blacks. Photo: Getty Images

One of the Fijians' rare attacking periods in the first half turned to disaster for them when Zac Guildford latched on to a turnover ball and kicked downfield and caught fullback Iliesa Keresoni.

Quick ruck ball was fed to Slade who chipped over the Fijian defence, gathered in the ball and scored under the posts.

With 18 points on the board and the initial rustiness starting to wear away, the All Blacks stepped up the pace in the closing minutes of the first half with Andrew Hore and Adam Thomson both crossing for tries.
Ali Williams of the All Blacks makes a break.

Ali Williams of the All Blacks makes a break. Photo: Getty Images

But having spent most of the first half in defence, a fired-up Fiji took control of the second half and were rewarded when bruising backrower Sakiusa Matadigo broke from a scrum to run 50 metres before sending halfback Nemia Ranuku in for the try.

The All Blacks replied with two quick tries to Conrad Smith and Piri Weepu, both resulting from chip kicks by Weepu, and Fiji were successful with the same tactic when Vereniki Goneva kicked over Weepu and won the race for the ball over the line.

The All Blacks' superior fitness told as they regained the initiative in the closing stages and picked up a late 14 points with a penalty try and a try to Mils Muliaina, both converted by Carter.

Pictures :
http://usfijitimes.org/picturegallery.php?iGId=62
Coach Singh optimistic about Fiji’s chances
Newly appointed acting national soccer coach, Gurjit Singh is hopeful of building a winning team for the Pacific Games in Noumea.

The former Fiji U20 coach who took charge of the national squad from yesterday says there is a lot of work needed to build a winning combination and time is a factor that is not favouring him.

“It is a challenge for me to coach a national team though I have already coached the U20 team in the past. I see this as an opportunity for me to help my nation through my coaching,” he said.

“Time is surely not on our side but with the players chosen for the task, I will be working on moulding as good team that can win the Pacific Games.”

“Currently, there are injuries to some players while the Ba players are excused from camp so this is affecting the preparation to some extent but things should be okay in the coming weeks.”

“There are a lot of young players in the national squad and I would love to build a winning combination using most of them since they will be available for national commitments for some years.”

“The sessions yesterday and today were good and I was particularly impressed with the partnership of Roy Krishna and Eran Underwood. The two strikers combined very well and showed a lot of promise.”

Singh admits naming the final team for the Pacific Games will be a daunting task, given the calibre of players available for selection.

“Yes, it will be a tough task but we will be monitoring the individual players and will select the best out of the lot,” he added.

The national team will play a friendly match against Ba this afternoon and Singh will use the match to gauge the performance of the national reps in the Ba squad.
Run them hard
Fiji rugby great Tomasi Cama has called on the Flying Fijians to fight like warriors in the opener of the ANZ-sponsored Pacific Nations Cup against Tonga on Saturday.
“Take the game to Tonga and put the pressure on them. Get up on defence early, secure the set-pieces and use the backline to score tries,” Cama said of the Flying Fijians when they meet Tonga at Churchill Park in Lautoka on Saturday.

The match is the start of the 2011 tourney. Cama has rallied up Pacific rugby rivalry as the Flying Fijians meet the Ikale Tahi (Sea Eagles) in Lautoka this weekend.

He is confident Fiji will win.

“They need to get in there and do the job, play the game plan they have been given for 80 minutes,” Cama, who had played against the Tongans in a number of test matches, said.

“Against teams like Tonga you will need to be up on defence, don’t allow them any chance to move the ball, stop them with tough tackles and get our loosies in there to secure possession in general play “Our forwards need to secure set piece play and our backline must get the ball early.”

Tonga arrived in Fiji on Wednesday after playing in the Churchill Cup series in England.

Coach Isitolo Maka said his side was ready for Fiji.

Cama said the Tongans would be fiery upfront.

“They play it tight and close. They can come up with some surprises like the 15 man maul,” Cama said.

“They will also run it if they get the chance. I believe Samu Domoni and his team have a game plan that will work.

“The rest will be up to the players and if they get in there early and ensure that they do what they are supposed to do then I think we will win it in the end.”

Cama said the experience in the national side should augur well for Fiji.

Meanwhile, Maka has named their starting team.

He boasts a team of overseas-based players in their search for a home-away victory.

“We will perform and it will be a very good game for us this weekend. We had our first run today, even though we did not get enough training time together. We are optimistic of our chances on Saturday,” Maka said.

He said they were injury-free.

His run-on side are all experienced players and he is building on a Pacific Rugby win come game time.

“We are getting everything in order. With the calibre of players we have there will not be many mistakes, which the Fijians can take advantage of,” he said.

The match starts at 3pm.

Tonga: 1 Alisona Taumalolo, 2 Ifalemi Taukafa, 3 Kisi Pulu, 4 Paino Hehea, 5 Tukulua Lokotui, 6 Lisiate Faaoso,

7 Samiu Vahafolau (C), 8 Sione Kalamafoni, 9 Samisoni Fisilau, 10 Kurt Morath, 11 Viliame Longi, 12

Andrew Mailei, 13 Alaska Taufa,14 Viliami Helu, 15 Vungakoto Lilo

Reserves

16 Semisi Telefoni, 17 Tonga Leaaetoa, 18 Joe Tuneau, 19 Sione Vaiomounga, 20 Soane Havea, 21 Hudson Tongauiha, 22 Mateo Malupo.
Changes imminent to Fiji FA 35-man squad
The Fiji Football Association has no choice but to make changes to the 35-member national squad it named Monday to prepare for this year's Pacific Games.

This comes in the wake of a directive by the Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee (FASANOC) it will only work with squad lists that were submitted to them.

“Sports federations can make changes but within the list which was submitted to FASANOC as this has been approved by the Board of Management which has the final say in selection matters. We will not accept new inclusions,” FASANOC president Vidhya Lakhan clarified.

In Fiji FA’s case, a list of 57 players was submitted to FASANOC which did not include names of six reps who were included in their reduced 35-member squad.

The six are Jone Salawaune of Tavua, Remeuru Tekiata of Ba, Sandeep Nair of Labasa and Navua trio Pranil Kumar, Pene Erenio and Rajnil Chand.

The Fiji FA has called a press conference at midday today at their Knolly Street head office ‘to clarify the issues relating to the National Team selection and coaches statements.’

Out of the reduced 35-member squad, 21 will travel to New Caledonia, which FASANOC says the FFA needs to finalise by June 25.
Defending champs held by Tavua
Defending champion, Ba was held to a goal-less draw by a young and energetic Tavua outfit in the opening match of the 2011 Fiji FACT at Churchill Park this afternoon.

The Men In Black struggled in all aspects of the match and were lucky to come away with a draw as the Gold Miners time and again missed chances at goal in both halves.

Strikers Jone Salaweune, Ravinesh Singh and the midfield combination of pint sized Lovneel Pratap and Ravinesh Chand proved havoc for Ba and despiteb utilising all the substitutes, Coach Josaia Bukalidi failed to get a winning start.

The draw puts a lot of pressure on Ba as they will play tougher opponents in their remaining pool matches.

Tavua coach Kamal Swamy was happy after the draw and said his players listened to the instructions and played well as a team.

“At the beginning of the year we were having some financial problems that’s why we were not able to train as a team”.

“But just recently we moved into camp and trained as a team, it’s a very young team and they played really well, said Swamy.

“The only thing that is a concern for me is the finishing and I believe that lady luck was not with us today”.

“They need confidence and I believe that drawing with Ba who are known as the Giants of Fiji soccer, their confidence level will certainly build up”.

Ba Secretary Iliyaaz Khan said they played according to plan and will need to work harder in the remaining matches.

“We played according to our game plan and now need to work on our weaknesses”.

“I am not disappointed and we are going to regroup as a team”.

“Our main area of concern is finishing and we will be working on that, said Khan.

Ba plays Rewa in the feature match tomorrow at 5.15pm while Tavua is on a Bye.

Play-by-play analysis

4th minute update- Tavua comes on attack and Ravinesh Singh is left in the clear but fails to capitalise on his chance as Ralulu comes to Ba's rescue.

7th minute update- Salaweune breaks away from the right flank for Tavua and comes in with a volley which goes inches over the cross-bar. Tavua is entertaining the fans while Ba is trying to settle in the match.

10th minute update- Tavua is playing with more confidence and has so far launched three attacks on the Ba goal and has kept the Men In Black in their own territory. The crowd on the stands is backing the miners as Ba is still struggling.

16th minute update- Ba has failed to live up to expectation in the opening 15 minutes and Kamal Swamy is barking instructions to keep his players focused on the task.

19th minute update- Salaweune has another chance and comes in with a low shot which is blocked by Ralulu. Scores remain 0-0 with ten minutes of play remaining in the first half.

24th minute update- Ba is trying to control play in midfield by Tavua is scattering its defence which is making things tough for the Men In Black.

27th minute update- Bukalidi makes the first change of the match and Nakama is replaced by Ratu Vula Bonaveidogo.

Halftime update- Its halftime here and both teams are still locked goal-less. Ba will really need to lift its game in the second spell if it wants to start off the tournament on a high note while Tavua has to apply the pressure and get a goal if it wants to win this fixture.

34th minute update- Tavua is continuing to apply the pressure and the fans gathered here are backing the team on while Ba players are trying their best to get things right in the second spell.

40th minute update- Ravinesh Singh misses another chance on Ba goal and Josaia Ratu makes a good save on the other hand, much to the delight of the crowd which is backing Tavua.

48th minute update- Aisea Codro comes in for Raura to add more depth to Ba's defence. Dauniseka comes in with a diving header which goes inches over the cross-bar.

52nd minute update- With less than 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Ba is pushing everyone forward in desperation while veteran Valerio Nasema is guiding his defence pretty well.

56th minute update- With four minutes remaining, Meli Codro and Peter Hughes come in for Marika Madigi and Simeli Naresia while Tavua is yet to make a change.

59th minute update- Meli Codro cops the first yellow card of the match and a minute remains in normal time.

Full-time update- Tavua holds the defending champs to a goal-less draw.

Starting teams:
Ba- Jone Ralulu, Daniel Krishneel, Manueli Kalou, Ronil Kumar, Jone Vesikula, Laisenia Raura, Petero Dauniseka, Simeli Naresia Mavileko Nakama, Marika Madigi, Malakai Kanihewe.

Tavua- Josaia Ratu, Valerio Nasema, Vilitati Ratu, Ame Votoniu, Savenaca Nasara Jnr, Jale Vota, Jone Salaweune, Ravinesh Singh, Saimoni Tukai, Lovneel Pratap, Ravinesh Chand.

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