Fiji scored two tries within five minutes and looked close to adding another to record one of the great turnarounds, but knocked on a crucial pass near the try line, sealing the win for Wales 32-26 in their opening RWC2023 match.
The FIJI Water Flying Fijians were trailing 32-14 and down to 14 men with less than 20 minutes to go before they scored two tries via Josua Tuisova, who had come off the bench, in the 73rd minute and Mesake Doge in the 78th to reduce the gap to six points, and only needing a converted try to change the outcome.
Fiji did not give up and played some exceptional phases that kept the Welsh on the edge when Semi Radradra received a pass from Tuisova with the line ahead of him in the final minutes but spilled it over.
Waisea Nayacalevu, captain
On his reaction to defeat:
“It’s a tough one. We are really disappointed because we put a massive amount of effort in and credit to the boys, we worked hard until the end.
“That last pass, man…it’s quite hard but we have got to learn from that and move on to next week.”
On the team’s bond:
“The bond helps us a team to work together, get our heads together and keep fighting until the end.”
Simon Raiwalui, head coach
On the match:
“It was a good game. We were just not clinical enough. We had two or three try-scoring opportunities and we had two disallowed – we have got to take our chances. Well done to Wales, but we made too many mistakes.”
Simon Raiwalui, head coach
On why Fiji lost:
“We dropped a couple of balls over the tryline, a couple of disallowed tries, so we had opportunities and a chance to score at the end with the pass to win it. Wales had a couple of opportunities off our defensive errors and scored a couple of tries, and that was the difference. We’ve got a lot of things to work on.”
“The boys worked very hard today, the back row were really good, we just made mistakes in critical moments. We didn’t take those opportunities when we could have extended the lead and we were left to chase it at the end.”
On what defeat means for Fiji’s qualification prospects:
“Anything can happen but we can’t look back right now, we need to look forward and see what we are lacking. I think we can play better than that. It is silly mistakes. We need to keep the ball a little bit longer.”
Wales posted the first poits with a penalty goal in the second minute courtesy of Biggar. Shortly after, Josh Adams scored a try for Wales.
Fiji fought back, with Nayacalevu’s try in the 13th minute, followed by a successful conversion by Lomani. They scored again in the 17th minute with another try, but missed the conversion.
Wales closed the gap with a penalty goal by Biggar in the 24th minute, making the score 11-14. George North then scored a try for Wales in the 29th minute, and they took the lead at 18-14.
In the 34th minute, Fiji had a try by Eroni Mawi disallowed after a review by the TMO due to a lack of downward pressure on the ball, despite a questionable defensive tackle.
At halftime, the score stood at 18-14 in favor of Wales.
The second half saw more action, with Wales extending their lead to 25-14 in the 48th minute. Liam Williams and Rees-Zammit played a crucial role in this try.
Taking advantage of Fiji’s reduced size after Tagitagivalu was sent off, Wales scored another try in the 64th minute, taking their lead to 32-14 before Tuisova and Doge crossed the whitewash for Fiji.
Photos: RWC2023 (Adam Pretty – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)