Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Fiji Bati were in fine form last weekend as they eased to a comfortable 58-12 win over the USA. Despite only completing at 69%, Mick Potter's men simply dominated, culminating in 12 line breaks and 11 tries in a scintillating attacking display. Potter would have been particularly impressed with his side's commitment as, while the game was effectively decided by half time, Fiji continued to push on in the second half, running in an additional four tries. He will have similar hopes that his side does not get complacent on Sunday afternoon seeing that they will be battling a Wales team with little expectation after being thumped 50-6 last week by Papua New Guinea.
Wales were simply humiliated in last week's effort against PNG and it seems likely that their fate in this year's World Cup will be decided before they even take the field on Sunday night. Despite completing at 85%, Wales simply could not handle a powerful PNG outfit last week, finishing the game with a stunning 76 missed tackles. It could be said that perhaps, with little more than pride to play for, John Kear's side may chance their arm and keep this one close as a result. However, there needs to have been a serious defensive adjustment in the past week for Fiji to not run up another score in this one.
Who to watch: Taane Milne was simply unstoppable last week and will look to continue to terrorise on the right edge for Fiji. Milne signed for the Tigers earlier this year and coach Ivan Cleary would have certainly been impressed with the former Dragon's performance last week. Milne finished with an incredible two tries, two line breaks, two try-assists and 141 running metres in a dominant showing and will look to take advantage of Wales' flimsy defence on Sunday night.
Meanwhile, for Wales, their only try last weekend came in the form of winger Regan Grace and the 20-year old may be one to keep an eye out for if the Welsh are given quality possession on Sunday. Grace crossed for nine tries in his debut season for St. Helens this year and may be the attacking spark that Wales needs to take what few opportunities they may be presented with on Sunday.
The favourite: You would be a brave man to put even a cent on Wales, yet they certainly are at long odds to win this one - and for a good reason when you consider the contrasting performances of both sides last weekend.
My tip: Fiji demonstrated last Saturday night that they are determined for 80 minutes of quality in this year's World Cup and there is little doubt they will do just that against Wales on Sunday in Townsville. Fiji by 40+.
1. Kevin Naiqama 2. Suliasi Vunivalu 3. Taane Milne 4. Akuila Uate 5. Marcelo Montoya 6. Jarryd Hayne 7. Henry Raiwalui 8. Ashton Sims 9. Apisai Koroisau 10. Eloni Vunakece 11. Viliame Kikau 20. Salesi Faingaa 13. Tui Kamikamica 14. Joe Lovodua 15. Jacob Saifiti 16. Junior Roqica 17. Ben Nakubuwai
1. Elliot Kear 2. Rhys Williams 3. Michael Channing 4. Christiaan Roets 5. Regan Grace 6. Courtney Davies 17. Dalton Grant 8. Craig Kopczak 9. Steve Parry 10. Phil Joseph 11. Rhodri Lloyd 12. Joe Burke 13. Morgan Knowles 7. Danny Ansell 14. Matty Fozard 15. Matthew Barron 16. Ben Evans