Wales 32-26 Fiji: Warren Gatland’s side hang on to claim vital Rugby World Cup Pool C win in Bordeaux
Tries from Josh Adams, George North, Louis Rees-Zammit and Elliot Dee see Wales earn opening win in Pool C clash, despite late Fiji fightback and a late Semi Radradra fumble which might have resulted in a match-winning try; Wales face Portugal in their next match
Last Updated: 10/09/23 11:29pm
Wales began their 2023 Rugby World Cup campaign with a vital 32-26 victory over Fiji in an entertaining clash in Bordeaux.
Fiji produced a stirring late fightback and had a golden chance to score a potentially decisive try with the last play, only for Semi Radradra to spill the ball forward with the try-line beckoning.
First-half tries from from Josh Adams and George North, plus a pair of Dan Biggar penalties, saw Wales lead by four points at half-time, despite Waisea Nayacalevu and Lekima Tagitagivalu scores seeing Fiji lead.
Wales scored through Louis Rees-Zammit and Elliot Dee to build a 16-point second-half lead, but Fiji fought back again with both Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge scoring in the final eight minutes before Radradra’s costly late knock-on.
Wales 32-26 Fiji – Score summary
Wales – Tries: Adams (8), North (29), Rees-Zammit (48), Dee (66). Cons: Biggar (30, 49, 67). Pens: Biggar (2, 24).
Fiji – Tries: Tries: Nayacalevu (13), Tagitagivalu (17), Tuisova (73), Doge (78). Cons: Lomani (15, 18), Tela (73).
Story of the game
A textbook Ryan Elias breakdown penalty saw Biggar kick the first points and within moments, a superb North break got the finish it deserved.
Biggar found Liam Williams, who then produced a brilliant pass out to Adams, who checked inside Selesitino Ravutaumada to score.
Biggar’s conversion slipped wide, and Fiji got on the scoreboard minutes later as Nayacalevu burst through the challenges of Biggar and Aaron Wainwright, before showing searing pace and power to run in.
Lomani converted, and four minutes later, Fiji had a second as Tagitagivalu scored a stunning try, finishing a move which included a sumptuous Nayacalevu offload to a rampaging Radradra, who ran past Wales skipper Jac Morgan as if he wasn’t there, before offloading to Tagitagivalu.
On 24 minutes, an offside penalty against Fiji allowed Biggar to bring Wales to within three points, and several phases of Welsh attack in the Fiji 22 followed after a harsh penalty call against wing Vinaya Habosi.
Fiji defended their line and a subsequent lineout strongly, but, eventually, North demonstrated his good footwork and pace to skip through and score.
On 35 minutes, Fiji loosehead Eroni Mawi leapt for the line over a ruck to score. However a lengthy TMO review followed, deducing Mawi had lost control and knocked on – though Wales hooker Elias appeared to get away with a no-arms tackle on Mawi just prior.
Wales went in at the break with an 18-14 advantage Biggar should have extended with a penalty from the opening play of the second half, but shockingly missed wide from on the 22.
A sensational Habosi tackle kept out Rees-Zammit, but the Welsh winger was in to score soon after once Nick Tompkins made an incisive break and Morgan sent over a cross-field kick which was spilled by Habosi.
Biggar’s conversion gave Wales a nine-point lead, but they were very fortunate not to lose a player to the sin-bin after a succession of penalties conceded near their try-line past the hour mark.
At the end of that period of pressure, Botia knocked on as he dived to score and to compound the frustration, Fiji then lost Tagitagivalu to a sin-binning for a maul penalty. With a player advantage, Dee went over for a bonus-point try which seemed to wrap up victory for Wales, but late drama was to follow.
After Tuisova used his muscle to score, Fiji thought they had another through Peni Ravai, only for referee Matt Carley to rule it out for a double-movement.
Replacement prop Doge did force his way over inside the final two minutes, and after Tela rushed his conversion wide, the game looked over.
However, Fiji would come again after Williams kicked out on the full and, but for Radradra’s knock-on down the left in the Wales 22, they might have completed the most incredible of comeback victories.
Raiwalui: We didn’t get the rub of the green from ref | Gatland: We made it hard for ourselves
Fiji head coach Simon Raiwalui said post-match…
“We just weren’t clinical enough, we dropped the ball over the try-line, we had a couple of opportunities we couldn’t score.
“It’s tough to talk when you’re hot after the match, I did think when we were down in the corner we had multiple penalties and didn’t get a yellow card (for Wales).
“Referees have a tough job, we didn’t get the rub of the green.”
Wales head coach Warren Gatland said post-match…
“I’m delighted with the win but we made it a hell of a lot harder for ourselves that we needed to.
“Typical Fiji, they never say die. They get a sniff of something and they want to come back in.”
Wales’ Dan Biggar added: “It was absolutely exhausting. The last 10 minutes felt like the clock never moved. We put everything into it.
“Fiji came strong at the end, but I’m really thrilled for this group of players that we managed to see it through.”
Wales next face Portugal on Saturday September 16, in their second Rugby World Cup Pool C game, at Stade de Nice (4.45pm kick off BST).
Fiji are next in action vs Australia on Sunday September 17, for their second Rugby World Cup Pool C match, at the Stade Geoffroy-Guichard in Saint-Etienne (4.45pm kick off BST).
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