Deja vu for Tane as Drua deliver another heart-breaker to under fire Coleman

Two weeks after missing a late chance to beat the Highlanders, Tane Edmed muffed his lines once again as the Tahs fell to a heartbreaking first-ever loss to Fijian Drua in golden point in Lautoka.

Suffocating heat, then pouring rain, a brutal burst of brilliance from a player deemed not up to NRL standards, and a brave Waratahs comeback marked the Drua’s 39-36 win.

The game was won in the 88th minute when Rob Valetini’s brother Kemu sent over a field goal. A few minutes earlier Edmed was set up in good position but shanked a wobbly kick low into the upright.

“Proud of the effort, it was a slog out here today and it was a physical game with ebbs and flows,” said Waratahs skipper Jake Gordon. “They had momentum in that first half, we came out in the second half and we won the confrontational battle up front and started to play some good footy off there. Like the last two or three weeks, the crucial parts of the game we let it slip.”

At the end of it Darren Coleman’s Waratahs have lost a fourth game from five this season, leaving their campaign, and the future of the coach twisting in the wind.

It’s no shame to go to Fiji and be overwhelmed – the conditions make it tough for FIFO footy players against players used to the sapping humidity – but there was no reason for the Tahs to be caught completely cold.

What was stunning was the Tahs incredible turnaround after going to the sheds behind 16 points at halftime to force golden point.

The Tahs made it so hard for themselves in an ill disciplined first half.

Frank Lomani scored one of the easiest lineout tries you’ll see, sneaking over as the Tahs forwards were still trying to organise themselves, while centre Iosefo Masi scored a first half hat-trick – the first by anyone for the Drua – giving Izzy Perese in particular an absolute bath.

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Masi, an Olympic Games gold medallist, had a short stint at Townsville Cowboys but they cut him loose before he played an NRL game.

He’s yet to play a Test for the Flying Fijians but that can’t be far off – he now has five tries in two weeks and was unstoppable at times.

Questions over Coleman’s future have been around since the start of the season – mostly driven by unnamed sources speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald. He was reported to have four weeks to prove himself ahead of a NSW board meeting that would determine if he deserves a contract extension. That’s now five weeks and there were questions about his future raised again midweek, with the meeting pending.

The Tahs had lost their past two by narrow margins and but for a Edmed missed kick against the Highlanders and some poor execution a week ago against the Blues, they could well be sitting at 3-2 rather than 1-4. But footy is a results business, and this was another one that went against them.

The Tahs started well in 30 degree temperature and high humidity and went to an early 10-0.

Hooker Mahe Vailanu crossed off a clever lineout play. As the Drua expected the visitors to set up a rolling maul, Jed Holloway, Ned Hanigan and Charlie Gamble traded quick passes before sending their No.2 over.

Edmed added the conversion from out wide and another penalty in front before Fiji, urged on by the incessant noise of vuvuzelas, warmed to the task.

Their opening try owed plenty to the Tahs’ indiscipline. The hosts had an option for an easy three points but chose to tap and run. They turned it over on the first phase and the Tahs tried to pass and run it out from their own in goal. Perese had a chance for a clearing kick but passed it up and the ball was shunted out over the sideline giving the Drua a lineout in a good position.

From the set piece, Masi stepped outside a grasping Perese and inside Mark Nawaqanitawase to cross for his first.

The second came from another error, this time by young fullback Max Jorgensen, who spilled a high kick under little pressure. Two minutes later the Fijians crossed as the Tahs fell asleep and failed to track Lomani’s run at the line out.

That gave the hosts a lead they never surrendered, although Jake Gordon twice passed up easy kicks for three only to watch his pack repelled from the set piece.

Masi grabbed his second, finishing off an excellent piece of backline play. Jorgensen hardly covered himself in glory – he was slow to close the space on the marauding Drua centre and then his shoulder high tackle attempt seemed more like a gesture of concession than real commitment.

Masi added a third when he took a simple pass from Masi and just punched right through Perese. The Tahs centre announced this week he was leaving the club at the end of the season, and maybe he was preoccupied in what was a dismal first half from the Wallaby.

His Test teammate Nawaqanitawase, with his Fijian father in the stands, was low key and only noticed when he was yellow carded a mniute before the break for a deliberate knockdown.

The mood was ectastic in the stands at halftime and the Tahs looked cooked, down 26-10. Driving rain during the break added even more resistance to the heavy field but the visitors turned the match on its head dramatically.

With Nawaqanitawase still in the bin, Joey Walton ran direct off a scrum and Perese popped a pass up for Charlie Gamble to begin the comeback. Fiji hooker Tevita Ikanivere restored the advantage but then Walton got a try of his own, followed by two tries in two minutes from Vailanua and Lachie Swinton.

After looking down and out the Tahs were level heading into the final 15 minutes.

The Tahs had their chances to grab the win in normal time, but Jorgensen knocked on with the Drua on the rack. A second opportunity was also let drift away, before the Drua also threatened on the break as the siren sounded.

But after 80 minutes in oppressive conditions, with five tries apiece, the teams faced off for 10 more minutes.

Within two minutes the Fijians were down to 14 as referee James Doleman yellow carded Peni Matawalu for slapping a Tahs player three times on the head in a maul, leaving the hosts without their reserve scrum half for the rest of the game.

A poor Drua lineout gave the Tahs a perfect chance to attack and they made excellent progress down the left before setting Edmed for a drop goal attempt. He drilled his kick low and into the post – a shaky strike when he needed composure.

Instead the Drua held theirs and worked it up field. With advantage on their side Valetini nailed his snapped attempt.

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RWC News: Rassie reveals vile death threat to Boks star and son, Owens’ verdict on BOK calls, why ABs can’t hug Dan Carter

Rassie Erasmus has revealed proof of death threats levelled against Springbok Cobus Reinach and his family.

The South Africa director of coaching shared the sickening online threat on his own social channels on Friday (AEDT).

The Springboks’ win over France in their quarter-final, where the hosts felt they were hard done by by referee Ben O’Keeffe, has seen a torrent of social media abuse thrown at the South Africans.

Reinach, who plays his club rugby in France for Montpellier, received two messages: one directed at him and another at his son.

“Dirty son of a bitch, I hope that when you return to Montpellier you get murdered by French people on the ground, gang of thieves easy to win a title by cheating,” is the translation of the post.

The post included a photo of Reinach’s son which read “go die.”

Owens’ verdict on BOK calls

Test refereeing legend Nigel Owens has given Ben O’Keeffe the all clear on at least one big talking point out of the French loss.

Early in the game and the French ahead 7-0 they looked to go further ahead when Eben Etzebeth knocked the ball down in an intercept attempt.

O’Keeffe and assistants ruled the ball was knocked backwards, to the dismay of French skipper Antoine Dupont. That saved the Boks lock from being penalised and yellow carded, as happened with All Black Aaron Smith the previous night.

“He [Etzebeth] is very, very lucky,” said Owens told the official World Cup site.

“He goes with one hand out. There is no way he’s going to catch this ball so what he tries to do, he tries to knock that ball backwards, which is legal. As long as you knock the ball backwards.

“If he’d made contact with that ball and that ball had gone forward, then it would have been a deliberate knock-on and a pretty certain yellow card as well here.

“Now, when you look at this footage, there’s a lot of debate about this. Some of you are saying: ‘Well, I think it’s gone forward’. Others are saying: ‘No, I think it’s gone backwards’.

“It really is a very, very difficult one. It’s impossible to see 100 percent, to put your house on it, to say if has gone forward or has it gone back.

“The referee looks at this and I have to say, I tend to agree with the referee here because it’s very difficult to say that it has gone forward or gone back, so the referee’s view and the TMO’s view is that the ball went backwards or certainly didn’t go clearly forward and therefore we have a play on.

“But remember, he’s very, very lucky. If that goes forward, it’s a pretty certain penalty and yellow card.”

Owens believed O’Keeffe got another divisive call right – a decision not to penalise Kwagga Smith for a breakdown turnover late in the game, with fans believing he should have been pinged for hands on the ground.

“Some of you have been debating. ‘What about the penalties, hands on ground, legal or not?’ Okay. Nothing in the law says that you can’t put your hands on the ground. So, we can’t say that any player that puts his hand on the ground is committing an offence, because it doesn’t say that in the law. So, the way that the referees will deal with this, is the law of the contact tackle area,” said Owens.

“So, if you come in to jackal the ball, what the jackler must do? He must release the ball carrier before he regathers on the ball, or if he’s not in contact with the ball carrier, when he comes in, he must maintain his own body weight.

“So, what he can’t do, is put his hands away or beyond the ball to support his body weight and then come on to the ball to gather. Now if he comes in and tries to go for the ball but in doing so because of the speed, his hands touches the ground around the ball, but that is not keeping his weight up – which means he’s supporting his own body weight – then we won’t necessarily penalise the hand touching the ground. We’d only penalise it if the hands are too far or he’s using the ground to support his body weight.

“So that’s what the referee decides. The referee needs to decide, was that hand supporting the bodyweight before he goes onto the ball and if so, it will be a penalty. If he feels well, he just touched the ground around the ball, it’s not supporting his body weight, then we’d have a play on.”

Owens did not buy into the Cheslin Kolbe charge down of Thomas Ramos’ conversion attempt, but new vision -released after a few days debate – suggested the officials got that one spot on.

Carter helping Kiwis ahead of semis

All Blacks legend Dan Carter paid the team a visit earlier this week but has had to endure a gentle teasing from coach Ian Foster.

Foster said he had brought a number of legendary players into camp before the tournament adding, “we’ve been privileged enough to have some of them around during the tournament. The team love it and I love it as they’ve got a rich history of loving this jersey and what the jersey stands for.

“We have got a great way of transferring that on to this current group. Often it’s not done with words, sometimes it’s just about being there.”

But he couldn’t resist a little dig at Carter.

“We couldn’t get too close to Dan as he had a nice cream jacket on which meant none of us could hug him as we were all dirty. He was pretty protective about getting that dirty too so we kept our distance, but it was great having him in.”

Foster, meanwhile, was giving the Pumas fair dues before their semifinal.

“There are two teams. Anyone can win,” he said.

“We are massively respectful of Argentina. We don’t live in the past in terms of past results. Rugby World Cup tournaments are really about the present, it’s about the best team on the night.”

The Pumas defied the odds themselves on Saturday by beating Wales 29-17 from five behind with 12 minutes to go.

They have logged two wins over New Zealand in the last three years and Michael Cheika, who coached Australia to the 2015 final, has urged them to believe they are a great team who can make the final.

“We have to be clear about what is going to be required when the heat comes on,” Cheika said. 

“When they come at us or when the battle is on, that is the moment you need to use those experiences (of previously beating New Zealand). That is where that comes in handy because you have felt it before, you have done it before.”

The Pumas have rebounded from the humbling loss to 14-man England with improving performances beside fan support that has made them feel like they’re home.

The Pumas have generally been slow starters and strong finishers, with goalkicking being a strong point. Emiliano Boffelli has 51 points in the tournament and Nicolas Sanchez has not missed a shot, with 11 from 11.

Argentina have six survivors from both of their wins against New Zealand — in 2020 in Sydney and in 2022 in Christchurch — including captain Julian Montoya, halves Gonzalo Bertranou and Santiago Carreras, and flanker Marcos Kremer, who made 26 tackles in Christchurch and leads the team in France with 55.

“Once you beat them once, perhaps you humanise them more,” assistant coach Felipe Contepomi said of New Zealand. “But the game starts 0-0.”

But New Zealand may have found a groove. After averaging 14 turnovers in the pool, the All Blacks conceded just three to Ireland and made 226 tackles, their most ever in a World Cup.

England footballer inspired by All Blacks

England football star Declan Rice says the team has taken inspiration from watching the All Blacks hold on against Ireland.

The team was in camp this week for a friendly against the Socceroos and a European Championship tie against Italy, and they won both.

Rice, who joined Arsenal from West Ham this year, noted the Kiwis brave effort to hold out the Irish through 37 phase at the death of their quarter-final.

“I’m not really the biggest of rugby fans but the games that I watched the other night have been gripping,” said Rice. “I think you see towards the end, Ireland had like 35 attacks in the last wave and New Zealand were on the line. We can take lessons from that, even though it’s a different sport. We can take lessons from the fact that it’s about leaving everything out there.

“Those top teams like South Africa, Ireland went out but they are number one team in the world, New Zealand. That mindset of getting over the line. That is what we’re now starting to achieve. We have all the talent but it is about that mindset and the drive to be the best and to win.

“If you want to win, you’ve got to do everything mentally and physically. All the subs that came onto the pitch, they all knew their roles. There was a lot of inspiration to take, especially from our England side as well, who were written off a lot and they are showing a lot of fight and character, as well. There’s lessons to be learned in other sports, for sure.”

(With agencies)

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