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#ThursdayTales: Fijians at Kingsholm

#ThursdayTales: Fijians at Kingsholm
Fijians at Kingsholm: 1970 & 2012


10th October 1970 was a very special day for Fiji – the country was granted independence - and the Fijian High Commissioner came to Kingsholm to watch his national team play Western Counties. A damp, drizzly afternoon did not make the visitors feel at home, but they received a very warm welcome from a sell-out crowd of 20,000, and were perhaps over-enthusiastic in their approach, leading to a violent bloodbath of a match.

Western Counties: J Waterman (Somerset); P Knight (Gloucestershire), M C Beese (Somerset), J Bayliss, M R Collins; J R Gabitass, J Spalding; A J Rogers, J V Pullin, B G Nelmes, D E J Watt, A J Brinn, D M Rollitt (captain), R C Hannaford, R Smith (Gloucestershire)

Dick Smith scored very early on, and Western Counties dominated for the first half hour. They were then undone by a typical Fijian surge right down the field, with backs and forwards combining at speed, culminating in a try for prop Jona Qoro who sidestepped four defenders on the way to the line. A penalty and a dropped goal put the home side ahead again, but scrum half Batibasaga threaded his way through to make it 11-10 at half-time.

Fijian head-butting forced John Pullin from the fray, and a dropped goal put Fiji ahead, but Charlie Hannaford scored from a careless knock back. Jon Gabitass suffered a fractured cheek, but kicked two penalties and converted his own try from a blindside break by Dick Smith to make the final score 25-13 after 15 minutes of injury time.


The Fijians returned in November 2012, to play Gloucester, whose young team faced a considerable physical challenge, but nothing like the violence of 1970.

Gloucester Rugby: M Thomas; S Reynolds, D Locke, T Molenaar, I Clark; D Robson, D Lewis; Y Thomas, K Britton, D Chistolini, W Graulich, H Casson, R Moriarty, M Cox, P Buxton;

Replacements: T d’Apice, D Murphy, T Heard, B Sparks, B Field, G Boulton

Fiji’s backs ran riot to build an 18-0 lead, their big powerful runners threatening to overwhelm their smaller, nippy opponents. But Matt Cox bullied his way over from short range. Dan Robson converted and kicked a penalty to make it 18-10 at half-time.

Fiji started the second half with another cracker of a try, but then, to the surprise and delight of the home supporters, the Gloucester pack took control. Twice they muscled their way to a penalty try. The crowd erupted when Koree Britton peeled off a rolling maul to touch down, and Dan Robson’s conversion edged Gloucester ahead. Fiji missed a late penalty, and nerves were jangling when Gloucester needlessly conceded a 5-metre scrum, but they held out for a famous win, 31-29.
Next Home Match
Kingsholm Stadium
Gloucester Rugby
Sat 4 Jun
KO 15:00
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