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‘We keep fighting’: Flying Fijians captain ‘relieved’ after tense win

By Finn Morton
A general view as Waisea Nayacalevu of Fiji speaks with teammates as they hudddle after the Rugby World Cup France 2023 match between Fiji and Georgia at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux on September 30, 2023 in Bordeaux, France. (Photo by Pauline Ballet - World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

The Flying Fijians are on the brink of their first Rugby World Cup quarterfinal in 16 years after surviving an almighty scare against Georgia in Bordeaux on Saturday.

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Fiji needed a bonus point win to secure a spot in the next stage, but they were made to work at 100 per cent for just the four competition points in a hard-fought 17-12 win.

The result leaves the door slightly ajar for Eddie Jones’ Wallabies, but Fiji are still in control of their own destiny. Fiji can move on with a win against Portugal on Sunday – even a losing bonus point will do.

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Playmaker Luka Matkava kicked the first points of the night in the 4th minute and another two penalties from wing Davit Niniashvili saw Georgia take a commanding 9-nil lead into the break.

Georgia came close to scoring tries on either side of the half-time interval, but these missed opportunities inspired a Fiji comeback. Captain Waisea Nayacalevu and Vinaya Habosi scored decisive tries for the Flying Fijians are they snuck by for a five-point win.

While it wasn’t the bonus point win that Fiji would’ve wanted, the victory was still a great birthday present for Nayacalevu’s father who was watching on at Stade de Bordeaux.

“Relieved. We’ve played Georgia in a few games, the last time we played them we drew 15-15, that’s how good they are, physical, they like to play like us, and today they played really well,” Captain Nayacalevu said post-game.

Points Flow Chart

Fiji win +5
Time in lead
18
Mins in lead
60
22%
% Of Game In Lead
74%
58%
Possession Last 10 min
42%
0
Points Last 10 min
3

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“We didn’t manage to do a few things, dropped balls, we put ourselves under pressure in the first half. What I told the boys, ‘We keep fighting, we keep focusing, keep on going, don’t back out’, and in the end in the second half we managed to get away with the win, so I’m proud of the boys.”

With Wales riding high on the back of a perfect three wins from as many starts at the World Cup, Fiji are firming as the likely runners-up to come out of Pool C.

Waiting for them in the quarterfinal stage is a potential blockbuster with England in Marseille. The Flying Fijians beat England for the first time ever just before the tournament, beating Steve Borthwick’s men 30-22 at Twickenham.

“That is history,” halfback Frank Lomani said. “England are a better side, for us we are just worrying about our team. We don’t worry about outside noise. we just focus on every game as a final.

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“Even if we play England in a quarter-final, we are just going to play how we play.”

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