Wales go from being all over the place to deservedly eclipsing Fiji in Oita thriller
Wales survived a major fright to subdue flamboyant Fiji 29-17 at Oita Stadium and book their place in the World Cup quarter-finals. Warren Gatland’s team recovered from conceding two tries in the opening 10 minutes to wing Josua Tuisova and full-back Kini Murimurivalu as Fiji showcased their sevens genius in spectacular fashion.
But wing Josh Adams touched down twice before half-time and then completed his hat-trick to secure a potential last-eight clash against France. Dan Biggar, who went off after a nasty collision, kicked two conversions and Rhys Patchell added a conversion and penalty, but Wales were pushed to the limit before full-back Liam Williams’ late try clinched a bonus-point triumph.
Fiji’s defeat means they are out of the tournament, yet they exited in style despite having two players sin-binned, by testing every sinew of Wales’ character and resolve. Gatland made two changes to his line-up for the clash at Oita Stadium. Flanker James Davies and No8 Ross Moriarty both made first starts of the tournament, while Edinburgh back row forward Viliame Mata featured as Fiji’s solitary switch following a bonus-point victory over Georgia last week.
Wales needed a win to reach the quarter-finals, but Fiji’s last-eight odds were long following defeats against Australia and Uruguay. Fiji served immediate notice of their attacking flair when lock Leone Nakarawa’s defence-splitting pass had Wales in trouble. And Wales were then undone from an attacking scrum, with possession quickly moved and wing Tuisova applying a one-handed finish for a superb try.
Flanker Josh Navidi looked to have hauled Wales level two minutes later when he crossed Fiji’s line, but the score was ruled out for a knock-on by centre Hadleigh Parkes. Fiji continued to stretch Wales, though, and scrum-half Frank Lomani saw a try disallowed before Wales hooker Ken Owens was sin-binned.
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Wales were all over the place, and they conceded a second try after 10 minutes when Fiji full-back Murimurivalu touched down in the corner. The Six Nations champions did not know what had hit them, as Fiji began to evoke memories of their stunning World Cup victory over Wales in Nantes 12 years ago.
Fiji lock Tevita Cavubati followed Owens into the sin-bin for an offence at a ruck, and Wales responded with an opening try as wing Adams caught Biggar’s kick to touch down, with Biggar’s conversion making it 10-7 after 19 minutes.
Adams went within inches of scoring a second try nine minutes later, but he was tackled into touch at the corner flag. Wales, though, regrouped impressively, and Fiji had a second player sin-binned when flanker Semi Kunatani saw yellow for deliberate offside.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 9, 2019
Relentless pressure had to tell, and Fiji could not hold out as ace poacher Adams touched down again before Biggar’s conversion made it 14-10. It was the final score of a thrilling first half, but Wales knew they had plenty of work still to do.
Fiji had no intention of going quietly, and Wales were stretched defensively during the second half’s opening minutes. Wales captain Alun Wyn Jones’ handling error under no pressure in midfield illustrated how much of an impact Fiji had made on the game, and James Davies was then sin-binned for killing possession.
Davies had hardly made his way off the pitch when the Wales forwards pulled down a Fiji driving maul and Garces awarded a penalty try that meant Wales trailed 17-14 after 54 minutes.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) October 9, 2019
Biggar then crashed to the ground after colliding with two of his team-mates, but he got to his feet after receiving medical attention and went off. Rhys Patchell replaced him, and he immediately kicked a long-range penalty that tied the scoreline.
It was a thrilling and pulsating contest, with Wales hoping their fitness levels might prove decisive as the game entered its closing quarter. And when centre Jonathan Davies made a slashing break, Adams finished brilliantly to complete his hat-trick, giving Wales a 22-17 advantage.
Fiji’s resistance finally broke 11 minutes from time when Wales full-back Williams crossed for his team’s bonus-point try. Patchell converted, Wales led 29-17 and they could finally see a much-coveted quarter-final place. Wales successfully closed out the final minutes to maintain their unbeaten record in the tournament.
– Press Association
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