Wales struggled to hold off fast-finishing Fiji to win 32-26 in the latest instalment of their entertaining Rugby World Cup rivalry today.
The pre-tournament hype around Fiji looked to be justified when Waisea Nayacalevu and Lekima Tagitagivalu scored classic Fijian tries from deep in the space of four minutes to vault their team into a 14-8 lead by the 17th.
They didn’t score another point until the 73rd as the Welsh regrouped to deliver a mature and determined riposte, even claiming an attacking bonus point for going over for four tries. Josh Adams, the top try-scorer in the 2019 World Cup, got off the mark four years later with one of them.
This was the fifth straight World Cup where these two teams have met in the pool stage and Fiji’s only win remains that epic 38-34 in Nantes in 2007, the last time the tournament was staged in France.
This didn’t quite reach those levels, though it wasn’t far off, with Fiji producing some spellbinding rugby early on that had Welsh tacklers flapping at thin air and summoning up one last flourish that nearly brought about a thrilling victory.
Tries by Josua Tuisova and Mesake Doge, in the 73rd and 78th minutes respectively, left Fiji within a converted try to win and it could have materialized if center Semi Radradra hadn’t spilled a pass out wide when free on the left after the 80 minutes had passed at Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux.
Just one game in and Wales — a semifinalist in 2011 and 2019 — already looks in good shape to reach the quarterfinals again under Warren Gatland, with Australia, Georgia and Portugal the other teams in Pool C.
Fiji might now need to beat Australia if they are to reach the quarterfinals.