Josh Adams scored a hat-trick to help Wales defeat a plucky Fiji side 29-17 in their crucial Pool D clash in Oita on Wednesday. MARIETTE ADAMS reports.
The hard-fought win puts Wales in prime position to emerge as Pool D winners ahead of Australia, who look set to advance as runners-up. Both teams have one more pool match remaining, against Uruguay and Georgia respectively. If they beat the minnow nations, Wales enter South Africa’s side of the draw, while the Wallabies will go into England and New Zealand’s side of the draw.
As expected, Fiji gave Wales a tough contest. The Fijians’ strong carrying and power-running game in the opening period was too much for the Welsh defence. However, from a 10-point deficit Wales gradually worked their way back into the contest in the first half before shutting Fiji’s attack down in the second to come away with the victory.
In a sensational start, the Pacific Islanders had Wales under the cosh from virtually the first kick-off and were well worth their 10-0 lead 10 minutes in. Wales, already guilty of falling off too many tackles in that opening period, also conceded a yellow card when Ken Owens was punished for lifting an opponent up and failing to bring him down safely.
Fiji, much like their Pacific Island neighbours Samoa and Tonga, are not renowned for their exemplary disciplinary displays and conceded two yellow cards which allowed Wales back into the game. Adams went over in the left corner for a quick-fire brace and flyhalf Dan Biggar expertly knocked over both touchline conversions to put Wales in front by 14-10 at the break.
The same pattern followed in the second half, with Fiji pinning Wales in their own half early on and exerting pressure on their defensive line. In the 58th minute and several warnings later, French referee Jerome Garces lost patience with Wales and sent flank James Davies to the bin for a cynical infringement before awarding a penalty try to Fiji, which put them back in the lead.
Wales were dealt another blow when Biggar was forced off after a nasty mid-air collision with teammate George North. But his replacement, Rhys Patchell, had an immediate impact as he added three points off the kicking tee to draw them level. Fiji enjoyed the lion’s share of possession and created a few scoring opportunities. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert pressure into points.
Wales, though, had no such qualms. Adams completed his hat-trick to wrestle back the ascendancy for Wales before Liam Williams dotted down to all but secure the victory.
The last 10 minutes morphed into a scrappy affair, littered with handling errors and unnecessary off-the-ball scraps. Ultimately, it was job done for Wales, who moved to the top of the pool standings before their last match against Uruguay on Sunday.
Wales – Tries: Josh Adams (3), Liam Williams. Conversions: Dan Biggar (2), Rhys Patchell. Penalty: Patchell.
Fiji – Tries: Josua Tuisova, Kini Murimurivalu, penalty try. Conversion: Automatic.
Wales – 15 Liam Williams, 14 George North, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Haldeigh Parkes, 11 Josh Adams, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Ross Moriarty, 7 James Davies, 6 Josh Navidi, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tom Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Wyn Jones.
Subs: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Rhys Carre, 18 Dillon Lewis, 19 Aaron Shingler, 20 Aaron Wainwright, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Rhys Patchell, 23 Owen Watkin.
Fiji – 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Waisea Nayacalevu, 12 Lepani Botia, 11 Semi Radradra, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Frank Lomani, 8 Viliame Mata, 7 Semi Kunatani, 6 Dominiko Waqaniburotu (c), 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Tevita Cavubati, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Samuel Matavesi, 1 Campese Ma’afu.
Subs: 16 Tuvere Vugakoto, 17 Eroni Mawi, 18 Peni Ravai, 19 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 20 Peceli Yato, 21 Nikola Matawalu, 22 Jale Vatubua, 23 Josh Matavesi.
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