Wales avoid Fiji upset - Green and Gold Rugby
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Wales avoid Fiji upset

Wales avoid Fiji upset

Wales did just enough to defeat Fiji 23-13 in their third Pool A match overnight. Reminders of losing 38-34 in Nantes in 2007 were all the talk in the lead-up, but a battered Welsh outfit scored two tries to one to register the big W.

Vibe

Both of these teams traditionally like the open play. So it was no surprise to see plenty of that, though the match interspersed classy with scrappy.

Wales started all guns blazing with a great run from George North ending with a penalty on the line. The med in red knew that they needed a bonus point and went for the corner. They came up short, but Gareth Davies sniped around some flimsy post defence to score under the sticks soon afterwards.

The sides exchanged penalties before Davies again made a great run down the blind and looked set to score, only for play to be called back for a dangerous neck-roll in the ruck by lock Bradley Davies (no relation, supposedly). Neck contact was supposed to be a focus area for the World Cup referees, but here as in other matches, no card was forthcoming.

At 10-3, Wales scored another, with a beautiful delayed pass from Dan Biggar setting the team away and hooker Scott Baldwin scoring from close range. The Fijians nearly scored at the other end immediately afterwards, former Cheif Asieli Tikoirotuma making a great bust, but Ben Volavola missed the resulting penalty, not for the first time.

At 17-3 shortly before the half, things looked good for the dragons.

The second half was a tighter affair. Fiji started with a bang, with Tikoirotuma combining with Nagusa to send Goneva over for surely the try of the tournament thus far. The islanders looked dangerous, forcing the Welsh back into a more conservative approach.

With Nemani Nadolo suspended and lightning scrum-half Niko Matawalu nursing and injury, they just lacked that composure needed to break down an effective, but not insurmountable, defence. A great break by the awesome Leone Nakarawa mid-way through the half had to end in a try; it didn’t, and that was the story of Fiji’s resurgence.

As he did against England, Dan Biggar showed great composure and leadership to secure the win with a couple of late penalties.

Score

Wales: G Davies, Baldwin tries; Biggar 2 cons; Biggar 3 pens.

Fiji: Goneva try; Volavola con; Volavola 2 pens.

Incidents of Note

There was a lot that was important in this match for the GAGR crew. For one thing, Fiji absolutely destroyed Wales’ scrum all night long. No turning or dodgy penalties, just pure men against boys dominance.

For another, Wales didn’t get a bonus point. And really never looked like getting it. This has substantial repercussions for Pool A.

 

TEAM P W D L PF PA PD TF TA BP PTS
1 3 3 0 0 105 47 +58 11 2 1 13
2 2 2 0 0 93 16 +77 14 1 1 9
3 2 1 0 1 60 39 +21 5 2 2 6
4 3 0 0 3 37 86 -49 3 9 0 0
5 2 0 0 2 12 119 -107 0 19 0 0

As the table shows, even should the Wallabies lose to England, with zero bonus points, they would still be in a fairly good position to qualify thanks to a healthy points differential against Uruguay and Fiji (vis-a-vis the Welsh) and Wales’ awful scrum. That said, Gareth Davies and Dan Biggar look awesome in the halves – surely the best combination in the Cup so far – and give the Walking Wounded a lot of direction and shape.

As for Fiji, they’ve had a rough time of it with matches against England, Australia, and Wales. I suspect that with Nemani Nadolo back, they might be just about to take out their frustration on Uruguay next week.

Should I Watch the Match?

Should you ever. Goneva’s try alone was a scorcher.

Feast your eyes

  • Braveheart81

    This was a very entertaining game. The Fiji try was a cracker but there were so many big breakouts from both sides that there could have easily been three or four try of the tournament contenders.

    Gareth Davies and Asaeli Tikoirotuma were both outstanding.

  • Pedro

    Did Wales hold anyone back for this match? Just curious about whether this is roughly the same team we’ll be up against next weekend.

    • Braveheart81

      Nope. No one was rested. I believe they may get Liam Williams back from injury (he played fullback against England and was kicked in the head by Tom Wood).

    • Patrick

      See the first comment, Fiji are not a holding back against kind of team anymore, probably even NZ wouldn’t risk resting anyone who didn’t really need it against Fiji these days.

      • Patrick

        Also Wales don’t have anyone to’rest’ anymore…. :(

  • The Jackal

    Unfortunate the way the pool seeding system has played out. Fiji are a deserved top 10 team and never realistically had a chance to progress to the knockout stage let alone even earn automatic qualification for the next World Cup by finishing third in the pool. In any other pool they would be nuisance to the presumed quarter finalists. Love their style of play, sad they ended up in the Pool of Death rather than one of the other paddling pools. All the interesting and meaningful rugby (Japan v Sth Africa aside) is being played in Pool A, must be nice to be NZ and still have a fortnight to even have to start paying attention to the competition

  • Gus

    For the record, under the rules of the world cup, where two teams are tied on match points (such as where Australia losses to England but defeats Wales so Australia and Wales are on 13 match points, its the winner of the Australia Wales game that gets the nod, game point difference will not come into it.

  • YBT

    Great game and well played by both teams.

    Did anyone else notice how strange the refereeing at the breakdown was? It seemed like the only thing John Lacey cared about was players going off their feet and everything else was fair game. As as example in the 67th minute a Fijian player blatantly enters the ruck at 90 degrees and the ref does nothing… and then moments later pings Fiji for going off their feet (which they did).

    7 minutes later Ma’afu puts his hands into a ruck and gets penalised for – you guessed it – going off his feet!

    Didn’t affect the outcome of the game but not a great match from Lacey.

  • Simon

    Fiji are not far off true Tier 1 status on their performance here. They just need to tidy up their finishing. They have troubled all three Tier 1 nations and could have upset Wales. Makes a bit of a mockery of the system when Italy are Tier 1 and Fiji aren’t, just because Italy play Six Nations.

    I feel much better knowing the Wallabies had the upper hand against the Fiji scrum, which in turn had the upper hand against England and just annihilated Wales.

  • Braveheart81

    Yep. Matt Morgan. He was Wales’ biggest attacking threat. They’re dubbing him the new Shane Williams.

    I saw him described somewhere as being like a gnat which has had a Red Bull.

  • Pedro

    Jamie Roberts described him as that Mather guy out of Jonah Lomu Rugby:

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/jamie-roberts-being-same-squad-7262841

  • Braveheart81

    Isn’t part of the system that the Tier 2 nations are getting more annual funding than the Tier 1 nations from World Rugby because that is where it is needed?

    A big change that could be about to happen is that Fiji, Samoa and Tonga could all get a full vote with World Rugby whereas currently they’re grouped together as Oceania. That would give them a lot more power to help improve their situations, particularly as ethnically, they are producing so many excellent rugby players playing right around the world.

  • Simon

    Yes, absolutely. Funding and development support to grow the game. I understand that.
    And of course that’s the whole point – over time we’d hope and expect the Tier 2 nations start to challenge the Tier 1s, which is what we are seeing.
    But from what I understand Italy will remain Tier 1 even though currently Fiji, Tonga and Samoa all rank above them, because they play Six Nations, which is a Tier 1 competition.

  • Braveheart81

    I guess the point then is, what’s the benefit of being a Tier 1 nation apart from having a nicer sounding title?

    I also note that from an official perspective, World Rugby is moving away from the Tier 1 and Tier 2 terms (although they still keep using them).

    Italy have absolutely gone backwards in the last couple of years whereas Fiji have improved out of sight. Fiji substantially behind Samoa a couple of years ago and not far ahead of Tonga. Now they’re better than both.

    Certainly the prevalence of Pacific Islander players in France and England is having a huge impact on that. It has levelled the playing field in terms of providing professional leagues for the top players from any country to play in.

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