Test rugby wrap: Volavola's drop goal heroics

by AFP

Fiji conjured a dramatic drop goal to Melbourne Rebel Ben Volavola after the full-time siren to defeat Italy 22-19 in a one-off Test in Suva on Saturday, extending the Azzurri's losing streak to eight games.

Volavola's kick gave Fiji the edge in a contest in which the home team excelled during broken play but were dominated in the set piece.

It was a heartbreaking loss for Italian captain Francesco Minto, skippering for the first time after a selection shake-up from coach Conor O'Shea emphasising youth.

"It was a close game, we conceded too much to Fiji in open play and all their tries came from our mistakes," Minto said. "It shouldn't be like that."

Italy's inexperience showed early when wing Leonardo Sarto knocked on trying to gather a kick and Fiji set up centre Eroni Vasiteri for a try from the resulting scrum. 

But they excelled at the set piece, stealing the ball from Fiji's lineout and drawing numerous scrum infringements, allowing Tommaso Allan to kick two penalties and narrow the gap to 7-6. 

The flying Fijians' renowned backline got them out of trouble, throwing the ball around sevens-style before Jale Vatubua dotted down between the posts. 

They were lucky to go into the break up 14-9 but asserted themselves after the restart, when winger Vereniki Goneva ran 60m to score after intercepting a loose pass.

Fiji's number eight Nemani Negusa was sinbinned after a shoulder charge on Sarto and his absence was immediately felt when Maxime Mbanda scored a pushover try. 

Allan levelled the scores at 19-19 with three minutes left on the clock and it looked like a draw until Fiji ran the ball from deep within their own half.

They knocked on, giving the Italians a scrum feed but managed to turn over the ball and set up Volavola for the match-winning drop goal.


Fiji 22

Tries: Vasiteri, Vatubua, Goneva

Cons: Volavola 2

Drop goal: Volavola

Italy 19

Tries: Mbanda

Cons: Allan

Pens: Allan 4

South Africa v France

South Africa defeated France 37-15 at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in a three-Test series and continue their recovery after a horror season.

After conceding an early try, the clinical Springboks built a 23-7 half-time lead, then defended brilliantly before scoring a couple of late tries.

A second successive win over France was another step forward for South Africa following a calamitous 2016 season in which they lost eight of 12 Tests.

The scoreline was almost identical to the first Test in Pretoria - won 37-14 by South Africa - even though France, with eight changes, were expected to provide much tougher opposition.

France failed to score when dominant during the third quarter and this proved their undoing, leaving them with only pride to play for in Johannesburg next Saturday. 


South Africa 37

Tries: Serfontein, Kolisi, Oosthuizen, Jantjies

Cons: Jantjies 4

Pens: Jantjies 3

France 15

Tries: Spedding, Penaud

Cons: Serin

Pens: Trinh-Duc

Japan v Ireland

Ireland served Japan a brutal reality check as they crushed the Asian champions 50-22 on Saturday in Shizuoka in the second of their three-match summer tour.

Joe Schmidt's second-string side ran in seven tries in a clinical performance despite the lingering effects of jet-lag and blazing heat in Shizuoka, on Japan's Pacific coast.

"The conditions probably helped as both teams came to play good rugby and throw the ball around," said Ireland's stand-in skipper Rhys Ruddock. 

"It was really physical and we're feeling it after that."

With the bulk of Ireland's usual starting line-up in New Zealand on duty with the British and Irish Lions, a fresh crop of hungry young players tore into Japan from the start.


Japan 50

Tries: Noguchi, Fukuoka, Nagare

Cons: Matsuda 2

Pens: Tamura

Ireland 50

Tries: Earls 2, Leavy 2, Conan 2, Ringrose

Cons: Jackson 5, Scannell

Pens: Jackson

Argentina v England

Fly-half George Ford starred as England defeated Argentina 35-25 in a Santa Fe thriller Saturday to clinch a 2-0 victory in the two-Test series.

The tourists, level at 25-25 with 16 minutes left, finished stronger as substitute prop Will Collier barged over for a try that Ford converted.

Ford sealed success for an English side lacking 30 of their best players, primarily due to British and Irish Lions call-ups, with a drop goal six The playmaker excelled in both Tests, scoring 23 points in the first Test 

Argentina were left to rue three missed shots at goal in Santa Fe from usually ultra-accurate fly-half Nicolas Sanchez.


Argentina 25

Tries: Tuculet, Matera, Boffelli

Cons: Sanchez 2

Pens: Sanchez 2

England 35

Tries: Ewels, Francis, Care, Collier. 

Cons: Ford 3

Pens: Ford 2

Drop goal: Ford

Tonga v Wales

A sole try to Alex Cuthbert and four penalties to Sam Davies steered Wales to a 24-6 win over highly physical Tonga at a wet Eden Park in Auckland on Friday.

A seven-point penalty try in the last play of the game embellished the scoreline for a much-changed Wales, who were missing Test regulars and their coach because of the British and Irish Lions tour.

It was a match highlighted by bone-jarring tackles as Wales took a battering from a determined Tonga side on their way to maintaining their unbeaten record against the Pacific islanders after eight Tests. 

They led 8-3 at half-time with Cuthbert's try and a penalty by Davies, while Sonatane Takulua kicked a penalty for Tonga.


Tonga 6

Pens: Takulua 2

Wales 24

Tries: Alex Cuthbert, penalty try

Pens: Sam Davies (4)

USA v Georgia

Georgia have held out a fast finishing USA Eagles team to win the international at Fifth Third Bank Stadium at Kennesaw State University 21-17.

The Lelos set up a winning advantage early in the second half but the Eagles came rushing home and had the chance to go head in the shadows of fulltime only for the home team defence to take a promising sorte into touch on the 22m line.


Georgia 21 

Tries: Kvirikashvili, Penalty  try

Pens: Kvirikashvili 3

USA 17

Tries: Augspurger, Jensen 

Cons: MacGinty 2 

Pens: MacGinty