Chris Rattue runs through the winners and losers from today’s Rugby World Cup action.
WINNER/LOSER: Wales v Fiji... Oscar Kightley/Fiji
Fiji’s stirring comeback brought the tournament alive, and Wales were magnificently brave if ham-fisted in the face of the late onslaught. It was rugby at its best.
But Wales had help.
English referee Matthew Carley allowed them to repeatedly defend illegally without a yellow-card sanction, leaving Fiji just short of time to complete their comeback victory in the Pool C game.
By the time he did go beyond penalties and card a Welsh player, it was getting too late.
Oscar Kightley, host of Rugby World Cup on Island, had earlier opened an almost prophetic debate on whether Pasifika players are treated more harshly by referees.
Given that rugby has long treated the Pasifika countries as second-rate, it doesn’t take much of a stretch to see referees reflecting this official condescension.
In rugby’s crazy tangle of rules and interpretations, justice was not seen to be done at Stade de Bordeaux.
After Wales escaped from their goal line, Fiji were immediately issued a yellow card for bringing down a maul.
That question from the Samoan-born Kiwi Kightley, a man of so many impressive parts, is still ringing in the ears.
Still, what a game. Fantastic.
WINNER: Dan Biggar
No 10 Biggar’s heart-on-the-sleeve performance for Wales made me think of All Blacks first five-eighths Richie Mo’unga, but not in a good way.
Biggar looked like he was playing at a World Cup. Mo’unga, against France, played like someone going through his drills and searching for his mojo, apart from one great tackle.
The Wales-Fiji game was played in a terrific spirit, including the very odd sight of Welsh back Liam Williams leaping onto the back of an opponent.
Welsh captain Jac Morgan – a flanker – displayed a penchant for kicking the ball. None of the kicks were all that good, but one did create a try thanks to poor Fijian defence.
The 23-year-old Morgan is an oddity himself, a nuggety loose forward so little he is dwarfed by a lot of backs.
WINNER: Warren Gatland
How times have changed, and in a good way. Wales’ win over Fiji actually counts as an upset.
Coach Warren Gatland’s rescue act is off to a very good start.
He made good post-match talent as well, lamenting “dumb decisions” by his players.
“I’m angry about a few things,” he said, while looking rather happy.
WINNER: Fiji players’ singing circle...
... after the match. It brought a lump to the throat. Beautiful voices.
LOSER: Virtually nothing...
... after a brilliant match like that.
The yellow card injustice against Fiji was frustrating. Semi Radrada’s dropped ball on fulltime, with the line begging, was heartbreaking.
But if Radrada – a try-scoring sensation for Parramatta during his time in the NRL – had scored, it would have been near the touchline, meaning a winning conversion was by no means certain.
The Australia-Wales-Fiji battle for two playoff spots makes this a fascinating pool.
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