November — a month to reflect on
5 December, 2021, 6:00 am
As we head into the festive season, it’s important to reflect on the month of November which gave fans so much to cheer for.
After the disruption caused to sports by the pandemic, fans were looking forward to sports, especially rugby.
The Autumn Test tour did not let people down as upsets and thrills, caused during the tour, have been so much to look forward to come the new sporting year.
It’s my pleasure to take readers through a reflection of the excitement that the month of November had for us, sports fans.
The Autumn Test
The 2021 Autumn Test was one of the best we had in recent times.
The mighty All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks had a taste of Europe rugby as they clashed against Six Nations giants.
While the All Blacks and Wallabies fumbled, the Springboks continued with their unbeaten run until they lost to England in the dying seconds.
Ireland stole the show as they hammered the All Blacks 29-20 to claim a pulsating win.
The All Blacks suffered back-to-back defeats as France made a massive statement in Paris, downing the giants 40-25.
Rhys Priestland struck at the last minute to give Wales a victory over 14-man Australia 29-28.
England clinched a dramatic 27- 26 win over South Africa.
The Roses signed off in style as they outfoxed and outfought 2019 RWC final conquerors South Africa in front of a rapturous crowd.
These results are a testimony that the All Blacks and Springboks will need to be in first gear to win the RWC.
The Flying Fijians trailed Spain by 13-12, heading into the break.
However, the boys delivered the goods in the second spell, and came out victorious.
The 11th ranked Fijians found the going tough against the Lions, ranked 20th.
Despite meeting for five days, the clinical Fijians delivered when it mattered the most.
Our tries were scored by Josua Tuisova, Sam Matavesi, Aminiasi Tuimaba, Peni Ravai, Waisea Nayacalevu, Setareki Tuicuvu and Mesulame Kunavula.
The Lions surprised Fiji in the first bars with a brave and incisive game, while maintaining their discipline.
Against Wales, Eroni Sau’s early departure and the two yellow cards cost the Flying Fijians dearly.
Alex Cuthbert scored a crucial late try as Wales struggled past Fiji 38-23 in Cardiff.
In the final Test match, Georgia converted five penalties, while the Flying Fijians scored two tries – one each to Viliame Mata and Aminiasi Tuimaba.
Our boys had two grand opportunities to pull the game out of the fire in the second half, but poor handling errors, wrong options and miscommunication let us down, and the Lelos held on to record a first 15-15 draw in Madrid.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was sacked as Manchester United manager after a string of poor results.
One day after United suffered a humiliating 1-4 EPL defeat at Watford, Ole was fired.
He had overseen a poor start to the season, with the club sitting in seventh place in the EPL.
They lost four of their past five league matches, including a 5-0 home thumping at the hands of rivals Liverpool.
Ole took over as an interim boss in 2018 and was subsequently given a permanent contract, but his position was under scrutiny.
Ironically, after his departure Man United beat Villarreal 2-0 and held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw.
FTU Southern Zone
The 2021 Fiji Teachers Union (FTU) Southern Zone was held at Saraswati Primary Manoca and was funded by the Fiji Teachers Union headquarters.
The annual meet was organised by FTU Rewa Branch and was attended by Rewa, Nasinu, Suva and Navua branches.
The executives of Rewa – Elvis Goundar, Urmila Singh, Rohit Deo, Anjalin Dass and Jitesh Prasad – worked round the clock to get the tournament organised.
FTU Suva branch dominated the Southern Zone sports meet as they were the only branch to win three trophies.
FTU Suva won men’s volleyball and finished runner-up in women’s volleyball and netball.
Navua won women’s volleyball while Rewa, with a host of veteran players, won soccer and Nasinu won netball.
The FTU Southern Zone was attended by 150 members, and national president Muniappa Goundar was the chief guest.
The battle was tight and members enjoyed the competition.
Newcomers impress in Dubai
While South Africa won the opening round of the Dubai 7s, the debutants in the Fiji side captured the attention of the world.
Joseva Talacolo, Jeremaia Matana, Tevita Daugunu, Elia Canakaivata, Daniele Yaya, Iowane Raturaciri, Kaminieli Rasaku, Iowane Teba, Filipe Sauturaga, Panapasa Qeruqeru and Manueli Maisamoa were at their best as they helped the national 7s side through to the cup quarter-fi nal unbeaten.
In the opening round, Fiji outclassed France and then beat Canada. In their final pool match, Fiji emerged 17-12 winners against Australia.
Fiji outpaced Kenya 19-5 in the quarters, and then our boys faced the USA Eagles in the semi-final.
Unfortunately we lost 21-19, and then finished fourth going down to Argentina.
Our inexperience was the turning factor, but the boys made Fijians proud.
Nukubalavu trio fulfill dream
Iowane Raturaciri, Daniele Yaya and Iowane Teba, who hail from Nukubalavu Village in the Hidden Paradise, made their families and loved ones happy as they donned the national jumper in Dubai.
The trio attended Nasavusavu Public School and St Bedes College, and played for St Theresa before joining Raiwasa Taveuni. The boys are farmers and seeing them take their first plane ride made many Fijians emotional.
Nukubalavu Village was in frenzy and the villagers sang and danced as the boys took the field.
The players’ hard work, faith, dedication and determination paid off as they fulfilled their dream.
Fijiana wins silver in Dubai
The Australian women dominated the women’s 7s competition, beating Fiji in the final to lift the prestigious trophy.
They won all five of their matches, including a consummate victory in the final against Fiji.
The 2017 winners were in unstoppable form, scoring 163 points and conceding only 39 throughout.
They took control of the final within three minutes as Hayes skipped through Fiji’s defence to cross the line before Lily Dick pounced on a cross-field kick to charge over in the corner.
John Manenti’s side pressed home their quality, going into the break 17-0 ahead after a Charlotte Caslick try before Hayes sealed the deal, scooting over from the back of a ruck.
Fiji’s response, a try from Alowesi Nakoci, proved too little too late as the Fijiana, who made their first final on the circuit, settled for silver.
Dubai 7s opens to crowd
This week’s Dubai 7s tournament will be open to crowd.
The Dubai 7s tournament, which was held last weekend, was won by South Africa’s green machine as they tore apart the US Eagles 42-7 in the final.
South Africa will be top bet in the men’s competition, but the challenge could come from Fiji, Argentina, Great Britain and the US Eagles.
In the women’s competition, the Fijiana and Australia look set to meet in back to back finals, and this time around the Fijiana have a great opportunity to create an upset.
On Thursday, I celebrated my birthday.
I was overwhelmed with all the messages, calls and wishes that came by.
The day reminded me that age is catching up, and I have so much more to do.
At midnight my wife, Madhu, daughter, Mahika, and niece, Akshainie, woke me up, singing and dancing to the happy birthday beats.
I was so emotional.
The day followed up with more wishes, presents and cake cutting. In the evening, we had a family prayer to mark my special day, and to remember the like of my beloved mother, Pushpa Wati Lingam, who left us for eternal rest in March last year.
I thank my immediate family members, families from dad and mum’s side, in-laws, well-wishers, FTU family, and colleagues – letters to the editor, sports colleagues (including those from the rival teams), teacher colleagues, and my current and former students for their birthday wishes, never-ending support, tireless love and care.
Sukuna Bowl competition
The Sukuna Bowl competition has been confirmed for December 17 with a reduction in number of sports contested.
Army and Police will battle each other for supremacy.
Last year, the Fiji Police Force won the FMF Rise Fiji Rise Ratu Sukuna Bowl defeating the Subrails Republic of Fiji Military Force 32-8 at ANZ Stadium, and convincingly, the Men in Blue did it in clinical fashion capping off 2020 on a high note.
As I conclude, I wish every Fijian a safe and blessed weekend, and happy and prosperous festive season!
- RAJNESH LINGAM is a contributor to this newspaper. The views expressed are his and not necessarily of this newspaper or his employer.